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WAR MEMOIRS 




WAR MEMOIRS 

OK 

DAVID LLOYD GEORGE 


II 


l,OM) OS 

IVOR NICHOLSON & WATSON 

«« ***** At Hth 1 

nr. c. * 




CONTENTS 


CHAPTER XVIII 

THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME . . . . p. 531 

Eastern collapse suits the Westerners — Salonika army left without equip- 
ment and therefore impotent — Force too large for a garrison — Force 
too small for a campaign — Joffre’s vacillations of policy — JofFre’s visit to 
London in June, 1916 — Eloquence of J off re — A cynical performance 
—Summary of my contribution to the discussion — Futility of an 
inadequate offensive — Meagre results of Somme offensive — The attrition 
argument fallacious — German man-power still abundant — My visit to 
the Somme front — Cavalry waiting for a break through— Death of 
Raymond Asquith — Minds clouded by battle smoke — Germans turnon 
Roumania — Roumanian weakness — My memo, to the D.M.O. — 
Dangers on the Roumanian front — Measures to aid Roumania urged — 
Advantages to Germany of the Roumanian collapse — Allied losses 
heavier than German on the Somme. 


CHAPTER XIX 

MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS: PRACTICAL 
ACHIEVEMENTS 

I. GUN CONFERENCE AT BOULOGNE p. 548 

War Office view of my duties — Its refusal to recognise changed conditions — 
Requirements of the new warfare — Decision to consult with leaders in 
the field — Conference at Boulogne — I meet General Du Cane— My first 
question — My second question — General arrangements to co-ordinate 
munition production — Artillery problems : Colonel Walch’s views — 
Sabbath incongruity — General Du Cane widens his views — Sir John 
French makes an increased demand — My “ Big Gun Programme ” of 
August, 1915 — War Office informed — War Office indignation — My 
refusal to cancel orders — Lord Kitchener’s memorandum — War Office 
cannot man the guns — Cabinet discussion — Fate of the Committee — 
General Sir Ivor Philipps’s letter — Changed army views in 1916. 

2 * NATIONAL FACTORIES 

Range of the Ministry’s task — Growth of industrial control — Relations with 
the trade organisations — Developing new* factories — Achievements of 
first seven months — Total by end of the War— Other munition works — 
The shell factories — Method of organisation — Projectile factories — 
Achievements of shell and projectile factories. 

vii 



CONTENTS 


CHAPTER XVIII 

THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME . 53 1 

Eastern collapse suits the Westerners — Salonika army left without equip- 
ment and therefore impotent — Force too large for a garrison — Force 
too small for a campaign — Joffre’s vacillations of policy — Joffre’s visit to 
London in June, 1916 — Eloquence of Joffre — A cynical performance 
— Summary of my contribution to the discussion — Futility of an 
inadequate offensive — Meagre results of Somme offensive — The attrition 
argument fallacious — German man-power still abundant — My visit to 
the Somme front — Cavalry waiting for a break through — Death of 
Raymond Asquith — Minds clouded by battle smoke — Germans turnon 
Roumania — Roumanian weakness — My memo, to the D.M.O. — 
Dangers on the Roumanian front — Measures to aid Roumania urged — 
Advantages to Germany of the Roumanian collapse — Allied losses 
heavier than German on the Somme. 


CHAPTER XIX 

MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS: PRACTICAL 
ACHIEVEMENTS 

1. GUN CONFERENCE AT BOULOGNE p. 548 

War Office view of my duties — Its refusal to recognise changed conditions — 
Requirements of the new warfare — Decision to consult with leaders in 
the field — Conference at Boulogne — I meet General Du Cane — My first 
question — My second question — General arrangements to co-ordinate 
munition production — Artillery problems : Colonel Walch’s views — 
Sabbath incongruity — General Du Cane widens his views — Sir John 
French makes an increased demand — My “ Big Gun Programme ” of 
August, 1915 — War Office informed — War Office indignation — My 
refusal to cancel orders — Lord Kitchener’s memorandum — War Office 
cannot man the guns — Cabinet discussion — Fate of the Committee — 
General Sir Ivor Philipps’s letter — Changed army views in 1916. 

2. NATIONAL FACTORIES 

Range of the Ministry’s task — Growth of industrial control — Relations with 
the trade organisations — Developing new factories — Achievements of 
first seven months — Total by end of the War — Other munition works — 
The shell factories — Method of organisation — Projectile factories — 
Achievements of shell and projectile factories. 

vii 



Vlii CONTENTS 

3. FILLING THE SHELLS 

Supply of explosives — Lord Moulton’s work — Explosives factories — 
Military obstruction : Lord Moulton’s protest — Waste of T.N.T. — 
Rivalry of the Services — Lord Lee of Fareham — The acetone problem 
— Work of Prof. Weizmann — He solves the problem — Horse-chestnuts 
for acetone — Origin of the Balfour Declaration on Palestine — Filling 
confined to Woolwich — Breakdown of Woolwich filling capacity : trans- 
fer to M. of M. — “ The Extract ”■ — Appointment of Mr. Raven to 
Woolwich — Establishment of filling factories — Dangers of filling work 
— Courage of women workers : toxic jaundice — Hayes explosion — 
Progress of research in problem of shell filling — Work of Lord 
Chetwynd — Chilwell factory set up — Original methods at Chilwcll — 
Tribute to work of Sir Eric Geddes. 


4. MACHINE-GUNS 

Machine-gun supply in first year of War — General Baker-Carr’s account of 
military indifference — Supplies for the French — Maxim superseded — 
Rifles or machine-guns : Geddes sees Lord Kitchener — A chit signed — 
My revision of Kitchener’s estimate — Planning the new programme — 
Fresh orders for Lewis guns — Development of the Hotchkiss gun — 
Reductions in the cost — Summary of achievements . 


5. MACHINE-GUN CORPS 

The corps authorised — War Office neglects to develop the corps — My 
memorandum of 13/11/ 15 — Support of General Sir Archibald 
Murray — Value of the new force. 

6. DESIGN AND INVENTION 

Decisive importance of mechanical warfare — Machines more valuable 
than man-power — Our unpreparedness at the outbreak of War — 
War Office reluctance to adopt new weapons — Woolwich drawing 
office gets choked up — The Royal Society appoints an investigation 
committee — Divided responsibility between War Office and Ministry — 
Action of G.H.Q. and Admiralty to promote design — The Stokes 
gun — Growing need for examination of inventions by Ministry — 
Tank research taken over from Admiralty — Inventions Department 
set up by Ministry : Mr. Moir’s appointment — My speech in the 
House, 28/7/15 — Duel with War Office : arrangement with 
Kitchener — Mr, Moir’s complaint — War Office removes military 
experts from Ministry — Further letter : Colonel Goold-Adams removed 
— Delays caused by War Office control of design — General Du Cane’s 
letter — War Office not protecting the troops — My letter to Mr. Asquith 
— Transfer of design to Ministry — Ordnance Board dissolved — War 
Office makes a last fight — General Du Cane’s memorandum — War Office 
refusal to carry out instructions — War Office letter : still trying to retain 
control — Final decision of Cabinet War Committee. 

7. TANKS 

Value of the new weapon — My connection with its development — Early 
experiments Initiative shown by Mr. Churchill — Colonel Swinton’s 
suggestions — Ministry of Munitions undertakes supply — Trial of the 



CONTENTS 


IX 


“ Mother ” Tank at Hatfield — Lord Kitchener’s view of the Tank — A 
partridge’s nest spared — Manufacture and first use of tanks — A well- 
kept secret — Premature use a blunder — Irresolution of Army Council — 
Ultimate triumph of the new weapon. 

8. SUMMARY OF ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE MINISTRY 

Complex problem of munitions manufacture — Increase in shell production 
during first year — Supply of shells in Somme battle — Gun production — 
Evidence from the German side — Preparations for expanded output — 
Early criticism of the Ministry — Principles on which the Ministry was 
organised. 


CHAPTER XX 


ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA . . . p. 655 

A source of munitions supply — Problems of neutral countries in war-time— 
Pre-war attitude of the U.S.A. to Europe — Col. House’s interest in 
preservation of peace — Opinion in America during the early months of 
the War — Remoteness from the conflict — Ambiguity of the moral issue 
to American eyes — Hostility to Russia and Britain — America’s interest 
in neutrality — Trouble caused by the British blockade — Allied per- 
plexity as to President Wilson’s attitude — The copper dispute — 
Success of British action — German treatment of neutral shipping — 
Decline of American interest m the War — Views in the Middle West — 
The Dacia incident — Germany’s submarine blockade — The British 
retort : food and raw materials cut off — Lusitania sunk : Colonel 
House advises war — President Wilson’s notes to Germany — Lord 
Robert Cecil’s work m organising blockade — Roosevelt’s demand for 
war — The sinking of the Arabic — German plots against U.S.A. 
factories — Success of American loan for the Allies. 


CHAPTER XXI 


president wilson’s peace moves . . . 674 

Wilson’s letter to the belligerents — The nations committed to war — Mr. 
T. N. Page’s letter from Rome — Peace whispers at end of 1915 — 
President Wilson’s anxiety for peace — Col, House’s peace mission — 
Attitude of Germany — House’s proposals to Paris and London : 
conditional American intervention — French attitude — Divided views 
in Britain — Sir John Bradbury’s doubts — Pessimism of Mr. J. M, 
Keynes — An acrobatic economist — Scepticism of the Keynes theory 
— Mr. Keynes as the Prophet Baxter — Dinner with Colonel House — My 
views as to the right procedure — Colonel House accepts the conditions — 
Why no conference was summoned — President Wilson’s “ Probably ” 
— America’s entry would have shortened the War — Germany’s peace 
terms— Wilson’s resolute pacifism— Colonel Roosevelt’s letter — America 
opposed to a bold policy. 



X 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER XXII 

THE IRISH REBELLION . . . . . p. 6^4 

Part played by Irish problem in World War — Threats of Irish war in 
summer of 1914 — Home Rule Act suspended for the War — War Office 
tactlessness — Growth of sedition — Difficulties tor Liberal statesman- 
ship— The Easter rebellion — Mr. Asquith visits Ireland — 1 am asked to 
negotiate a settlement — My plan for Russian visit upset — Mr. Asquith's 
letter that saved m} T life — The negotiations begun — Personalities among 
the Irish leaders — Summary of my proposals — The settlement accepted 
— and smashed — Memorandum by Tory minister — Manifesto 

of the five peers — Lord Lansdownc’s letter — Lord Lansdowne’s 
speech — Carlton Club meeting — The agreement wrecked — Return 
to status quo. 


CHAPTER XXIII 


THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 


P- 709 


A big army not originally contemplated — British dislike of conscription- 
Early success of voluntary recruiting — Change in the position — 
Prospect of a long war — Voluntary system becomes inadequate — 
Difficulties caused by party feeling — My own attitude — Attempts to 
work the voluntary system— “Householders’ Return” — Lord Haldane on 
the Common Law position — National registration — Results of national 
registration Findings of Cabinet Committee in August, 1915 — My 
evidence before the Cabinet Committee — Mr. Runciman’s view — Mr. 
M Kenna’s financial objections— Lord Kitchener declares lor com- 
pulsion— Questions posed by the Committee — Divisions in the Cabinet 
Lord Kitchener s scheme IVIen at the Pront want conscription— 
The Derby scheme Pledges given to the married men — Unsatisfactory 
result of the Derby canvass— First step in conscription : single men 
^lled up— Resignation of Sir John Simon— Reassurances to Labour— 
I he second round . protests by older married men — Cabinet dissensions 
Man-power shortage : Sir William Robertson’s warning — Secret 
sessions of parliament— Universal military service enacted — My speech in 
• OUS P nn i c ^P^ es at stake — My part in the conti oversy : Sir 
William Robertsons letters— Hostility roused among a section of 
Liberals : my speech at Conway— Tribute to Mr. Asquith— Enthusiasm 
in France— Achievements of voluntary recruiting— The King’s message. 


CHAPTER XXIV 

DISINTEGRATION OF THE LIBERAL PARTY . . p . ygg 

First dissidents m August, 1914— Growth of anti-war feeling among po litical 
sa^e froVT R C nn^ ent f» “ } h l clubs : l « nd . m ^elf ostracised— A mes- 

sage from 1 Roosevelt— Anti-conscnptiomsts’ hostility breeds a split 

—Characteristics of Mr. M’Kenna-Liberal guerilla war against second 
coalmon-Trngedy of Mr. P. Illingworth’s death-Wa^ fatal to 
Liberalism National safety more important than party issues • 
conditions for honest coalition— My colleagues in the War. ' 



CONTENTS 


XI 


CHAPTER XXV 


LORD KITCHENER : A CHARACTER STUDY . . p. 750 

Conflicting estimates of him — Flashes of greatness — Fixed ideas — Con- 
tempt for democracy-— Opposition to Nonconformist chaplains — Fight 
over the Welsh division — Attitude to Irish division — The two Irish 
flags — A Welsh prisoner’s adroit complaint — Gifts of organisation — 
Long view of War’s duration — Immense value of his personal appeal — 
Accurate forecast of German strategy — Unreceptive to new develop- 
ments of warfare — Decline of his authority — Crushing effect of news 
of his death. 


CHAPTER XXVI 

AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR . . . . . p. 761 

News of Kitchener’s fate — My ministerial situation — Not attracted to War 
Office — Draft memorandum of my views on the situation — Powerless- 
ness of War Secretary — Need to mobilise civilian ability — Military 
distrust of brilliancy — Failure of War Office strategy — Success of 
Ministry of Munitions — Lack of sympathy with War direction — Plan 
to form a “ ginger ” opposition — I am persuaded to withdraw opposition 
— I take over the War Office — Two chief tasks : Transport and Meso- 
potamia — The Russian issue — Sir William Robertson invited to go — My 
letter to Mr. Asquith of 29 '9/16 — Sir William Robertson refuses to go : 
his letter — Bad news from Russia — War weariness growing — Effects of 
German propaganda — Too late. 


CHAPTER XXVII 

SIR WILLIAM ROBERTSON . . . . . p. 

A remarkable career — Administrative ability — First impressions — Distrust 
of foreigners — General “ Non-non ’’-—Admiration for the Germans — 
Defects as C.I.G.S. — Comparison with Sir Douglas Haig — Dislike of 
arguments — View of General Lyautey — Geniality and humour. 

CHAPTER XXVIII 


TRANSPORT ....... 785 

The three “ M’s ” — Immense task of army transport for B.E.F. — Transport 
problem in Woolwich Arsenal — Problem of transport in France — 
Block in ammunition transport — Efforts to get Sir Eric Geddes invited 
to G.H.Q. — My visit to Sir Douglas Haig — Sir Eric goes over — His 
friendship with Haig — A programme prepared — Geddes appointed 
D.M.R. at War Office — Call for his services in France — Sir Douglas 
Plaig’s letter to Geddes — My exchange of letters with the C.-in-C. — 
Establishment of “ Geddesburg ” — Assembling yards organised — Light 
railways constructed — Programme for standard gauge lines — Road 
construction — Work of Sir Plenry Maybury — Chinese coolies — Sir 
Douglas Haig’s tribute. 



Xll 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER XXIX 


THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE . . . . . />. 802 

Reasons for describing Mesopotamia campaign — The paradise of the Brass 
Hat — History of the expedition — Capture of Basra — Control by 
Indian Army — Expedition reinforced — Home Government warns 
against extended operations — Kut captured — Attack on Baghdad 
authorised — Repulse at Ctesiphon — Siege and fall of Kut — I transfer 
control to Home Government and order an investigation — A story of 
amazing incompetence — Conditions m Mesopotamia — Requirements 
for a campaign — Indian military authorities starve the expedition — 
Inadequate artillery and munitions — Shortage of river transport — 
Orders for boats muddled — Fresh boats refused — Incompetence of 
Indian Marine — Simla out of touch with situation — A red tape blunder 
— Mismanagement at Basra — Sir George Buchanan frozen out — 
Appalling failure of medical services — Peace-time incompetence of 
Indian military hospitals — Conditions worse in war — Wounded left 
on battlefield — No ambulances — No transports for sick and wounded 
down river — Arrival of wounded at Basra : Major Carter’s description — 
Major Carter threatened for reporting conditions — Outside help 
refused — Findings of the Commission — Deception about available 
resources — Sir John Cowans takes charge — A classic account of official 
circumlocution — My first impressions of Cowans — The laundry books 
— A bom organiser — Complete efficiency in his department — Spokesman 
for the generals. 


CHAPTER XXX 


THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW .... p. 832 

Peace kites in 1916 — Sir William Robertson’s peace proposals — Strong 
position of the Central Powers — Outlook in France and Italy — Russian 
collapse and approach of revolution — Growth of submarine menace — 
Figures of shipping losses — The French attitude : M. Briand’s speech — 
Germany’s outlook less favourable than her position — Rumours of a 
peace move by President Wilson — My determination to go through 
with the fight — Interview with Mr. Roy Howard — No outside inter- 
ference before victory is won — Tribute to France — Effect of interview 
Viscount Grey’s letter — My reply — Grey’s fears falsified by events — 
Spring-Rice’s reports of American attitude. 


CHAPTER XXXI 


THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE . . . p. f>>() I 

Peace discussed by the Asquith Cabinet — Lord Lansdowne opens the 
dis cussion— -His memorandum — Doubt of Allied victory — Mr. Runci- 
man s pessimism The food problem — Naval shortage of destroyers — 
Man-power running short— Cost of prolonging the War— A stock- 
taking needed of Allied resources — Disbelief in “ Knock-out Blow ” — 



CONTENTS 


Xlll 


Danger of political trouble in France and Russia — Trouble with the 
neutrals — We should not discourage peace moves — Objection to my 
insistence on victory — Comments on the Lansdowne memorandum by 
Robertson and Haig — Viscount Grey’s contribution — Only Mr. Balfour 
frames concrete peace terms — The Balfour memorandum — Allied 
victory assumed — Strip Central Powers of non-German territory — A 
new map of Europe — Problem of Poland — Schleswig-Holstein — No 
internal interference with Germany or Austria — Napoleon’s failure to 
crush Prussia — Possibility of German- Austrian unity — Slav races too 
divided to threaten Europe — Germany will still be strong — Need to 
secure access to sea for Central Powers — Problem of indemnities — 
Mr. Henderson’s views — Lord Robert Cecil’s memorandum — Mr. 
Asquith decides against peace move — Importance of these peace 
discussions — Mr. Asquith’s speech in the House — Lord Grey against 
peace without victory — Peril of an inconclusive peace — Why it was im- 
possible to open negotiations. 


CHAPTER XXXII 


THE MILITARY POSITION AT THE END OF THE 1916 

CAMPAIGN ....... p. 898 

A talk with Sir William Robertson — Summary of his memorandum — 
Position on the Western Front — Superiority of the enemy — No end in 
sight — Allied and enemy man-power — A dinner discussion — Further 
memorandum by Sir William Robertson — Difficulty of forecasting 
duration of War — Non-military factors m the problem — Allied weak- 
nesses — Victory on Western Front unlikely till 1918 — Steps to be taken 
— My statement to War Committee — A conference of East and West 
needed — Decision to hold Paris conference — Difficulties of arranging 
conference in Russia — Telegram to Paris — Political and military con- 
ferences m France — My memorandum on the situation — The outlook — 
Aims of the Somme offensive — Verdun — Our blunders of strategy — 
Dardanelles — Serbia — Roumania — Salonika — Greece — Hopeless out- 
look in the west — Southern Front — Eastern Front — Problem of attrition 
— Submarine menace — Financial difficulties — Possibilities in the 
Balkans — Proposal for conference in the east — Our visit to Paris — 
Bnand clawed by the “Tiger” — Reception of the memorandum — 
Asquith and Bnand — First session of Pans conference — M. Brmnd’s 
introductory speech — Governments, not army staffs, ultimate ir- 
responsible — Combined action on all fronts essential — Value of a 
Balkan campaign — Mr. Asquith urges a Russian conference — Italy 
non-committal — Russian ambassador approves conference — My plan 
for prompt action — Russia must be supplied with munitions — My 
proposals for conference in Russia — Italy asks for financial assistance — 
M. Bnand urges pooling resources — Situation in Greece — Vemzeios 
not to be recognised hastily — Proposals of the military chiefs — Second 
day of conference — Salonika effectives exaggerated — Transport lacking 
at Salonika — Italian engineers for Balkan roads — Italian finance — 
Poland — Paris conference a farce — Stupidities of 1917 campaign — 
Military chiefs ignore their governments’ views — Lost opportunities 
in the Balkans — A walk with Sir Maurice Hankey — Need for a small 
committee. 



XIV 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER XXXIII 

THE FOOD POSITION - . . . . p. 964 

Food shortage grows serious — My proposal for a planned national effort — 

Growth of submarine menace — Outlook for food supplies gloomy 

Central Food Department proposed — My memorandum : a Food 
Controller proposed — Further discussion in War Committee, 13/11/16 
— Committee approves control in principle — Further warning of 
submarine danger — Warning by Wheat Commission — No steamers to 
bring wheat to Britain — Nothing done by first coalition government. 

CHAPTER XXXIV 

A CABINET OF INDECISION . p m gj^ 

A nightmare situation — Problems that were being paltered with — Shipping 

The Russian issue — Aeroplanes — Mr. Montagu’s memorandum — 
Conflicts in the Cabinet — Talking out the issue. 


CHAPTER XXXV 


THE CRISIS : DECEMBER, 1916 


P ■ 979 


Need to co-ordinate Allied efforts— All vital questions left to departments— 
Co-operation of Bonar Law and Carson vital— Sir Edwaid Carson’s 
view of Mr. Asquith— Lord Beat erbrook’s account— Premiership issue • 
views of Carson and Bonar Law — My memorandum to the Prime 
Minister Mr. Asquith’s reply — The reply unsatisfactory — I appeal to 
Mr. Bonar Law— A talk with Mr. Asquith— His further letter f anger 

at 1 tmes article I accept his proposal — An interview refused me Mv 

exclusion from meeting of Liberal ministers— Mr. Asquith cancels our 
agreement A breach of faith My letter resigning office — Our further 
correspondence— Resignation of Mr. Asquith— Mr. Bonar Law urges 
Mr. Balfour to become Premier— Mr. Asquith refuses to join a Baltour 
ministry— I undertake to form a government— Attitude of Conservative 
leaders— Mr. Balfour’s support for my policy— He accepts office under 
Liberal leaders— My case never stated to party— 
Lord FitzAlan s help Preoccupations of new government — Campaign 
of misrepresentation— Mr. Asquith’s one-sided statement— Mr 
Runcmian s disingenuous speech. 

CHAPTER XXXVI 

SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 


I. MR. ASQUITH 


P • 1006 


Temperament of a judge — Great intellectual gilts — Judicial but not 

struct.ye— A great peace-time Premier— Part of the politician fn war— 
tf^our. needed f ° r War ' tIme statesmanship— Mr. Asquith’s decline 



CONTENTS 


XV 


2 . LORD HALDANE 

The best War Minister since Cardwell— False repute for intrigue— Last 
memories. 

3. LORD BALFOUR 

Reputation as Irish Secretary— Battle over Education Bill— Vagueness in 
tariff reform controversy— An Elder Statesman— Knack of stating both 
sides— Balfour and Clemenceau— Capacity for decision— Fearless but 
irresolute at Admiralty— A good Foreign Secretary. 

4. LORD CARSON 

A great advocate— Critical attitude to Mr. Asquith— Opposed to Dardanelles 
venture—" Agin the Government ’’—Value of his criticism. 

5. MR. BONAR LAW 

Friendships in politics— Work of mischief makers— Similarities in our 
early experience— Bonar Law and Asquith—" A Glasgow baillie 
Speaking different languages— Bonar Law’s pessimism— His value as 
a destructive critic— His courage— Reluctance to make decisions — 
Friendship with Lord Beaverbrook— Tragic bereavements— No taste 
for music—" I like bridge ”— A slave to his pipe— Love of tranquillity. 


CHAPTER XXXVII 

1914-1916 : A RETROSPECT p. IO32 

The end of an epoch— Allied superiority thrown away— Waste of man- 
power— What the Germans feared— Sir William Robertson’s view of 
the situation at end of 1916. 




ILLUSTRATIONS 


The famous Kitchener poster . . . Frontispiece 


Facing page 

M. Albert Thomas, Sir Douglas Haig and General 
Joffre in earnest conversation with Mr. Lloyd 
George during his visit to the Somme front . . 542 

Shell Factory at Chilwell showing H.M. The King 
and Viscount Chetwynd during the visit paid on the 
15th December, 1916 . . . . . . 596 

Facsimile of a memorandum, drafted by Sir Eric Geddes 
and initialled by Lord Kitchener, dealing with the 
supply of machine guns to the Armies . . . 605 

Facsimile of table supplied by Sir Eric Geddes to Mr. 

Lloyd George, showing the remarkable increase in 
Shell Production 649 

Facsimile of the letter written by Mr. Asquith which 
induced Mr. Lloyd George to abandon his proposed 
visit to Russia with Lord Kitchener . . . 698 


Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe bidding good-bye to 
Lord Kitchener on board Hampshire 

Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson, D.S.O., Chief of 
Imperial General Staff, 1 91 5- 1917 

The Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Geddes, G.C.B. 

Viscount Haldane of Cloan, O.M. 

The Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M. .... 

Lord Carson of Duncairn ...... 


759 

780 

798 

1010 

1012 

1018 


The Rt. Hon. Andrew Bonar Law, Prime Minister, 

1922-1923 1028 




WAR MEMOIRS 


CHAPTER XVin 

THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 

The whole strategic possibilities of the War for the 
Allies were changed by the Serbian collapse. The 
opportunities offered for a formidable 
Eastern movement against the eastern flank of the 
the Westerners Central Powers had been, if not entirely 
lost, at least made more difficult and 
doubtful. The constant allurement to amateur and 
other strategists of such a chance to divert troops 
from the Western charnel-house was shut down. 
The general staffs of France and Britain had not won 
the War, but they had won their war. The Dardanelles 
had been evacuated ; the Balkans had been trans- 
ferred from Allied to enemy hands ; the road to the 
Danube, to Constantinople and the Black Sea had 
been finally blocked ; Serbia had been wiped out ; 
Russia was tottering to her fall ; Roumania was 
isolated. What consummate strategy ! The Germans 
had not been beaten, but the politicians had been 
thwarted. The Capital Letters were triumphant. 
They sang their chortling Te Deums from Chantilly 
to Whitehall. The East with its opportunities, which 
were also temptations, was no more. Hail to the 
blood-red sun of the West ! 

VOL. II 531 A 



WAR MEMOIRS 


It is true that forces which numerically appeared 
to be very powerful were sent to Salonika ; and there 
Salonika Army was every appearance of a formidable 
left without army of British, French, Serbians and 
therefoie Greeks, numbering m the aggregate 

impotent hundreds of thousands, being assembled 

in that theatre. It was for all offensive purposes 
reduced to stagnation and impotence by an equipment 
so inadequate as to render this conglomerate army 
quite incapable of making any effective attack upon 
the enemy. The General Staffs were determined 
that all temptation to action must be removed from 
generals performing in that theatre. There were 
two possible uses to which the Salonika Expeditionary 
Force could be put. One was that it should be 
sufficiently strong to hold up the Bulgarians and a 
certain number of Austrian and German and Turkish 
troops, and to prevent them from being thrown on to 
other points where their accession might have been 
harmful and perhaps decisive. This plan would also 
have had the effect of preventing the surly and sus- 
picious King of Greece, who was only too sympathetic 
to the Germans, from throwing in his lot with them 
under the pretext that he could not resist the invasion 
of such a powerful force. As it was, he handed over 
Kavalla and a Greek Division to the enemy as an 
offering to propitiate an idol he feared as well as 
adored. He might have given them the whole of 
the Greek Army had we not been there. If that was 
to be the sole purpose of the occupation 
Force too of Salonika, the force was much too large, 
a garrison an< * a smaller army well entrenched at 
Salonika, supported with an adequate 
quota of guns, would have answered equally well. 
It could easily have been reinforced by sea had there 



THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 


been an attack ; there was no object in accumulating 
large forces there and providing them with powerful 
offensive armaments. 

The second alternative was that we should have 
an army at Salonika which could either have attacked 
the Turks on the right flank, cut their communications 
with Germany, and possibly captured their capital ; 
or, on the other hand, stormed the defiles of the 
Balkans, broken through and defeated the Bulgarian 
Army, re-established relations with Roumania, and 
through Roumania with Russia ; in fact, recreated 
the chance which had been lost through the fatal 
strategy of the early autumn of 1915. The fine 
achievement of the Serbian Army under 
Face too General Misitsch later on, when it fought 
Tcampaign * ts wa Y through to Monastir, proves that 
this was not outside the region of attain- 
ment by an army which was even moderately equipped 
with artillery and ammunition. 

The military chiefs pursued neither of these policies. 
As I shall point out later on, the Salonika Army was 
left practically without any guns or ammunition 
which would have enabled it to bombard its way 
through the crudest defences in such a difficult terrain. 
It was camped on the malarial plains of the Struma 
and the Vardar for two years without being given 
the means of fighting its way to healthier ground. 
The British Staff were in favour of the first course 
and would have reduced the force to dimensions 
sufficient for the discharge of this role. 
JuJre’s The French Staff hesitated between the 
ofpoticy™ two - The argument between them went 
on for months. The French Commander- 
in-Chief, once an obdurate Westerner, now feigned 
conversion to some of the tenets of the Eastern 


Juffre’s . 
vacillations 
of policy 



WAR MEMOIRS 


534 

faith. Here undoubtedly the reasons were political 
and personal. The influence of General Joffre in 
France had considerably diminished, owing to his 
failure to put the defences of Verdun in order for 
a whole month after he had been warned that an 
attack was impending. The autocratic authority 
which he once exerted, and which up to that date was 
quite sufficient to intimidate Governments and to 
compel them against their judgment to conform to 
his stubborn will, had faded almost to vanishing 
point, since the German guns at Verdun had laid 
bare his limitations. The leading statesmen of 
France, including the President and the President 
of the Council, believed in attacking the enemy on 
the south-eastern flank. In this they were supported by 
— in fact they were acting on the suggestion of — the 
most gifted soldier in the French Army, General 
Gallieni. 

General Joffre, therefore, in order to placate the 
men who for the first time had become his masters, 
deferred to their wishes about reinforcing the Salonika 
Front. It was his offering on the altar of the offended 
gods. The Moloch of the Western Front had been 
temporarily satiated. Some sacrifice might now be 
spared for the idols of the Elysee. General Joffre’s in- 
fluence had been strong enough to resist their plan when 
it would have been useful and perhaps decisive ; but 
his authority was too weak to offer any effective 
opposition when the plan had ceased to have anything 
like the same value. This is one of the comic inter- 
ludes which are woven into every tragedy. 

Joffre came over to London on 9th June, 1916, 
to persuade the British Cabinet to join the French in 
strengthening the forces at Salonika. At that time 
the great offensive on the Somme had been agreed 



WAR MEMOIRS 


534 

faith. Here undoubtedly the reasons were political 
and personal. The influence of General Joffre in 
France had considerably diminished, owing to his 
failure to put the defences of Verdun in order for 
a whole month after he had been warned that an 
attack was impending. The autocratic authority 
which he once exerted, and which up to that date was 
quite sufficient to intimidate Governments and to 
compel them against their judgment to conform to 
his stubborn will, had faded almost to vanishing 
point, since the German guns at Verdun had laid 
bare his limitations. The leading statesmen of 
France, including the President and the President 
of the Council, believed in attacking the enemy on 
the south-eastern flank. In this they were supported by 
— in fact they were acting on the suggestion of — the 
most gifted soldier in the French Army, General 
Gallieni. 

General Joffre, therefore, in order to placate the 
men who for the first time had become his masters, 
deferred to their wishes about reinforcing the Salonika 
Front. It was his offering on the altar of the offended 
gods. The Moloch of the Western Front had been 
temporarily satiated. Some sacrifice might now be 
spared for the idols of the Elysee. General Joffre’s in- 
fluence had been strong enough to resist their plan when 
it would have been useful and perhaps decisive ; but 
his authority was too weak to offer any effective 
opposition when the plan had ceased to have anything 
like the same value. This is one of the comic inter- 
ludes which are woven into every tragedy. 

Joffre came over to London on 9th June, 1916, 
to persuade the British Cabinet to join the French in 
strengthening the forces at Salonika. At that time 
the great offensive on the Somme had been agreed 



THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 


535 

to by both Staffs and both Governments. I was one 
of the members of the Cabinet who accepted Lord 
Kitchener’s view as to the futility of 
Joffre’s visit launching this attack. Lord Kitchener 
June!\gi6 m reluctantly withdrew his objections and 
the rest of us were overruled. The 
preparations were now far advanced. It was part of 
General Joffre’s case that the offensive was essential 
in order to relieve the pressure on the French at 
Verdun. For the same reason we had been asked 
to take over a considerable sector of the Western 
Front hitherto occupied by French troops. The 
French needed every battalion they could spare 
for the defence of Verdun. It is one of the incom- 
prehensible episodes of the War that the French 
Commander-in-Chief, the ruthless advocate of the 
“ all for the west ” policy, should at such a juncture 
come over to Britain to beg us to join the French in 
sending a considerable contingent of French and 
British soldiers to Salonika in order to launch a 
stage attack which must fail for lack of guns and 
ammunition. 

At the Conference which was held in Downing 
Street, General Joffre presented his case with great 
force and eloquence. As to whether he 
Eloquence was a good soldier or not, let others judge. 
Of Joffre Although I may not be competent to 
express an opinion I still hold one, and 
hold it strongly. As to his gifts as an orator, I 
feel that as an old Parliamentarian I am quite equal 
to forming a judgment, and quite entitled to state it. 
He was one of the most forceful and dramatic speakers 
I heard at any conference which I ever attended. 
But although on this occasion he spoke with all the 
outward visible manifestations of earnestness and 



WAR MEMOIRS 


536 

sincerity, in voice, gesture, language, and facial 
expression, it was difficult to believe that he was 
convinced even by his own eloquence. He was 
urging an attack with forces devoid of the armament 
necessary to achieve their purpose, and he made no 
suggestion that the equipment should be strengthened 
up to the point of effectiveness. It was 
A cynical one of the most cynical performances I 
perfoimance have ever listened to. Having regard to 
the inevitable loss of brave lives which 
would have been entailed in such a futile enterprise, 
it would have been wicked had it not been that he 
was relying upon our turning his proposal down. I 
realised that he did not mean business and that an 
offensive at Salonika unsupported by the necessary 
guns and ammunition must fail ; I also knew that 
such a failure must discourage any future attempt 
under more favourable conditions. 

Here is an official summary, taken down at the 
time, of the part I took in the discussion : — 

“ Mr. Lloyd George said that he had always 
been in favour of an advance from Salonika, but 
Summary that unless there was a fair chance of 
of my con- success he considered it fatal ; and because 
tribution to the facts before him were not convincing 

the discussion^ ^ would be successfu l 3 hCj as a 

supporter of the principle of an advance, was 
doubtful. We had had a bad experience at the 
Dardanelles, where we lost about 200,000 men as 
well as prestige. Unless there was a reasonable 
chance of success he was entirely opposed to it. 
The facts given by our General Staff had not been 
seriously controverted by General Joffre to-day. 
To attack a good army, in strong positions, with only 



THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 537 

twenty-four French and six British heavy howitzers 
was very dangerous. General JofFre said that we 
should be keeping the enemy busy and quoted the 
Russians. But the Russians were occupying the 
attentions of the Austrians, the Bulgarians were 
not helping anyone. If there was a fair chance of 
breaking right through and threatening the enemy’s 
flank, the Roumanians might come in on our side. 
But General Joffre does not say there is this chance ; 
he did not contemplate breaking through the 
Bulgarian lines — he was only thinking of com- 
paratively trifling victories. To attempt the 
operation with inadequate strength was to discredit 
it. Sir Douglas Haig has in front of him very 
serious operations undertaken merely to relieve 
the pressure on France. This consideration had 
appeared conclusive to the War Committee, 
otherwise they were opposed to the offensive at 
the present time, considered purely as a military 
operation. The Ministry of Munitions were 
sending heavy guns to France, but nothing like 
what Sir Douglas Haig wanted, and therefore Sir 
Douglas Haig would prefer to undertake his 
operations later, when he was sure of a full supply 
of these guns. The test was whether General 
Joffre in these circumstances would like to see, say, 
fifty howitzers diverted from France to Salonika. 
Mr. Lloyd George said that he was as firm a 
believer in an eventual offensive from Salonika as 
M. Briand himself, and urged that we 
Futility of should not begin any advance from 
a ofjhistve Uale Salonika until we were quite ready, as an 
unsuccessful offensive would prejudice any 
further offensive on this flank. No Government 
after the failure would try it a second time. This 



WAR MEMOIRS 


indeed was the main reason for his opposition. 
The Allies were not yet equipped to defeat the 
Bulgarians — to say nothing of the possibility of 
Turkish opposition in addition.” 

So, much to the secret satisfaction of General JofFrc, 
we turned our backs on Salonika and our faces once 
more to the Somme. It ranks with Verdun as one 
of the two bloodiest battles ever fought on this earth 
up to that date. The casualties on both sides were 
well over a million. It was not responsible for the 
failure of the German effort to capture Verdun. It 
was only an element in slackening up a 
Aleagte results German offensive which had already 

offensive 6 slowed down and was by now a practical 
and almost an acknowledged failure. 
The French Commander-in-Chief said in May 
that the Germans had already been beaten 
at Verdun. Had the battle continued to rage 
around the remaining forts which held up the 
German Army we could have helped to reinforce the 
hard-pressed French Army either by sending troops 
to the battle area or by taking over another sector 
of the French Front. The Somme campaign certainly 
did not save Russia. That great country was being 
rapidly driven by the German guns towards the 
maelstrom of anarchy. You could even then hear 
the roar of the waters. That is, we might have heard 
it had it not been for the thunders of the Somme. 
This deafened our ears and obscured our vision so 
that we could not perceive the approaching catas- 
trophe in Russia and therefore did not take measures 
to avert it. One-third of the Somme guns and 
ammunition transferred in time to the banks of 
another river, the Dnieper, would have won a great 



THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 


539 


victory for Russia and deferred the Revolution un til 
after the War. 

It is claimed that the battle of the Somme destroyed 
the old German Army by killing off its best officers and 
men. It killed off far more of our best 
The attrition and of the French best. The battle of the 

fallacious Somme was fought by the volunteer 
armies raised in 1914 and 1915. These 
contained the choicest and best of our young man- 
hood. The officers were drawn mainly from our 
public schools and universities. Over 400,000 of 
our men fell in this bullheaded fight and the slaughter 
amongst our young officers was appalling. The 
“ Official History of the War,” writing of the first 
attack, says : — 


“ For this disastrous loss of the finest manhood 
of the United Kingdom and Ireland there was 
only a small gain of ground to show. . . .” 


Summing up the effect on the British Army of the 
whole battle it says : — 


“ Munitions and the technique of their use 
improved, but never again was the spirit or the 
quality of the officers and men so high, nor the 
general state of the training, leading and, above 
all, discipline of the new British Armies in France so 
good. The losses sustained were not only heavy 
but irreplaceable.” 


Had it not been for the inexplicable stupidity 
of the Germans in provoking a quarrel with 
America and bringing that mighty people into the 
War against them just as they had succeeded in 
eliminating another powerful foe — Russia — the 



WAR MEMOIRS 


540 

Somme would not have saved us from an inextricable 
stalemate. I was not surprised to read in the British 
“ Official History of the War ” that M. Poincare is 
reported to have said that the greatest of all French 
soldiers, General Foch, was opposed to the Somme 
offensive. When the results came to be summed up 
they reminded me of an observation made by Mr. 
Balfour when the project of this great offensive first 
came from the French Staff. He said : “ The 

French are short of men ; yet they want to do 
something which would reduce their numbers still 
more.” At that time he was in favour of telling the 
French that we thought they were going to make a 
mistake. 

Whilst the French generals and our own were 
reporting victory after victory against the German 
Army on the Western Front ; whilst our Intelligence 
Departments at the front were assuring their Chiefs, 
and through them, their Governments at home, that 
five-sixths of the German divisions had been hammered 
to pulp and that the remaining divisions would soon 
be reduced to the same state, the German 
German man- General Staff were detaching several 
divisions from the battle area in France 
and sending them to the Carpathians to 
join the Austrians and Bulgarians in an attack on 
Roumania. No one on the Allied side seemed to 
have anticipated this move — at least, no one made 
any plans to counter it, if and when it came. The 
whole mind of the western strategists was concen- 
trated on one or other of the hamlets along the 
Somme. They exaggerated the effect of every slight 
advance, and worked themselves into a belief that 
the Germans were so pulverised by these attacks 
that they had not the men, the guns, nor the spirit 



THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 


541 

to fight anywhere much longer. They were only 
waiting, with hand cupped to ear, for the crack 
which would signify the final break of the German 
barrier, and they were massing cavalry immediately 
behind the French and British battle line in order 
to complete the rout of the tattered remains of the 
German Army. This is no exaggeration of their 
illusions. I saw them at this moment of exaltation. 

When the battle of the Somme was being fought, 
I traversed the front from Verdun to Ypres. With 
M. Albert Thomas I visited General Haig 
My visit to a t his Headquarters, and with him I drove 
Front ” 1 " 16 to General Cavan’s Headquarters to meet 
General Joffre. The latter and M. 
Thomas were anxious to secure a number of six-inch 
howitzers for the French Front. We had followed the 
advice given by the young French artillery officer 
at the Boulogne Conference (described in the next 
chapter) and manufactured these howitzers on a 
great scale, with a view to concentrating a plunging 
fire to demolish the enemy trenches. The French 
had gone in more for the long-range gun, and they 
were short of howitzers. 

When we reached General Cavan’s quarters there 
was a heavy bombardment going on from our eight- 
inch howitzers assembled in the valley below, known to 
the soldiers as the Happy V alley. The roar of the guns 
beneath and the shrill <c keen ” of the shells overhead 
were deafening. We could hardly carry on a con- 
versation. We found the noises were worse inside 
Lord Cavan’s quarters than outside. After we had 
arranged the matter of the howitzers we got on to a 
general talk about the offensive. Both Generals — 
Joffre and Haig — were elated with the successes 
already achieved. On my way to this rendezvous I 



WAR MEMOIRS 


542 


had driven through squadrons of cavalry clattering 
proudly to the front. When I asked what they were 
for, Sir Douglas Haig explained that they were brought 
up as near the front line as possible, so as 
Cavalry to be ready to charge through the gap 

breakUough which was to be madc h Y thc Guards 
in the coming attack. The cavalry 
were to exploit the anticipated success and finish thc 
German rout. 

The Guards could be seen marching in a long 
column through the valley on their way to the front 
line preparatory to the attack. Raymond Asquith 
was amongst them. Before 1 reached Ypres I heard 
that the attack had failed and that the 


Death of 
Raymond 
Asquith 


brilliant son of the British Prime Minister 
was amongst thc fallen. When I ven- 
tured to express to Generals Joffre and 


Haig my doubts as to whether cavalry could ever 


operate successfully on a front bristling for miles 


behind the enemy line with barbed wire and machine- 


guns, both Generals fell ecstatically on me, and Joffre 
in particular explained that he expected the French 
cavalry to ride through the broken German lines 
on his front the following morning. You could hear 
the distant racket of the massed guns of France which 
were at that moment tearing a breach for the French 
horsemen. Just then a Press photographer, of whose 
presence we were all unaware, snapped us. 

The conversation gave me an idea of the exaltation 
produced in brave men by a battle. They were 
quite incapable of looking beyond and around or 
even through the struggle just in front of them. That 
would have been all right had the Allied Governments 
been advised on the whole field of the War by 
independent advisers, who were superior or equal in 




{Photo: Jnipci nil War Museum) 

M. Albert Thomas (French Minister of Munitions), Sir 
Douglas Haig and General Joffre in earnest conversation with 
Mr. Lloyd George during his visit to the Somme front. 



THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 543 

capacity and will power to these resolute soldiers, 
whose vision was clouded by the smoke of the battle 
in which they were engaged. But neither the French 
nor ourselves had military counsellors at 
the side of Ministers comparable in 
battle snioke ability and force to Joffre, Foch and 
Haig. General Gallieni had been a sick 
man for years and therefore did not possess sufficient 
vitality to enforce the advice which his genius 
counselled. Of Sir William Robertson I shall have 
something to say later on. A mistaken loyalty to 
Sir Douglas Haig fettered his common sense. The 
result was that the break through was postponed 
from victory to victory. We suffered enormous losses. 
Some of them were irreplaceable — in the case of 
officers and in the picked men who had joined the 
Kitchener armies in the first moments of enthusiasm. 
The Germans flaunted our wild onslaught on the 
Somme and advertised its failure by their Roumanian 
campaign. They marched to the Danube to celebrate 
and exploit their victorious repulse of the Allied 
Armies on the Western stream. Mackensen crossed 
the great river from the Bulgarian side and marched 
on Bucharest. Falkenhayn’s army had 
Germans tum already fallen like an avalanche from the 
on Roumania Carpathian heights and overwhelmed 
the ill-equipped Roumanian Armies on 
the plains. Roumania, with its oil and wheat, fell 
into German hands, and thus months and years 
were added to the War. 

Before the attack on Roumania came, I was 
disturbed by news from the Balkans, which indicated 
a movement on the part of Bulgaria against her 
Trans-Danubian neighbour. We had also received 
a disquieting memorandum from Colonel Thomson 



WAR MEMOIRS 


544 

(afterwards Lord Thomson), our military attache at 
Bucharest, as to the equipment of the Roumanian 
Army. In guns and ammunition it was 
Roumanian quite unequal to the armament which 

weakness the forces of the Central Powers could 

easily spare for the attack. I spoke to 
one of the military staff at the War Office on the 
subject, but he tried to comfort me by assuring me 
that apart from the fact that the Germans had no 
troops or guns to spare from the Somme, where he 
said their losses in men and material were gigantic, it 
was getting too late for German action in Roumania, 
as snow would already have fallen on the Carpathians, 
and the passes were impervious to artillery. More- 
over, he did not think much of Colonel Thomson or 
his report. I was not completely reassured, and a 
day or two later I sent in to the Chief of the Imperial 
General Staff the following note : — 

“ D.M.O. 

I have just seen the telegram announcing the 
declaration of war by Bulgaria against Roumania. 
, f This is an additional ground for the 

lo Uie anxiety which I expressed to you on 

D.M.O. Saturday as to the possibilities in the 
immediate future in the Balkans. I then 
expressed some apprehension that Hindenburg, 
who has strong Eastern proclivities and has always 
been opposed to the concentration of Germanic 
forces in the west, would direct his attention to 
the crushing of Roumania, and that we ought to 
be thinking out every practicable plan for giving- 
effective support to Roumania in the event of her 
being heavily attacked. We cannot afford another 
Serbian tragedy. We were warned early in 1915 



THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 545 

that the Germans meant, in confederation with the 
Bulgars, to wipe Serbia out. In spite of that fact, 
when the attack came we had not even purchased a 
single mule to aid the Serbians through Salonika. 
The result was that when our troops landed there, 
owing to lack of equipment and appropriate trans- 
port, they could not go inland and Serbia was crushed. 

I hope that we shall not allow tire same catas- 
trophe to befall Roumania through lack of timely 
forethought. 

There are four disquieting facts in the situation : — 

1. Hindenburg’s well-known Eastern 
inclinations. 

2 . The declaration of war by Bulgaria against 
Roumania. I cannot believe Ferdinand would 
Dangeis have taken this risk where it was quite 
°Rowna unnecessar y unless he had received 
man™' substantial guarantees of German assis- 
Ftont tance in the attack on Roumania. 

3. The slackening of the German attack on 
Verdun. Hindenburg will certainly give up 
this foolish attack at the earliest possible oppor- 
tunity. The abandonment of this operation will 
release hundreds of heavy guns and hundreds 
of thousands of good troops. If in addition to 
this he were prepared gradually to give ground 
on the Somme, making us pay for it as he retires, 
he could transfer several more divisions from the 
West to the East. He could give up four or five 
times as much ground as we have won during the 
past two months without surrendering any vital 
positions.* 

* I am entitled to point out that five months later the Germans 
actually adopted this plan and by doing so completely upset the 
strategy of the Nivelle offensive. 



54 ^ 


WAR MEMOIRS 


4. I can hardly think that the equipment of 
the Roumanian Army would enable it long to 
resist an attack from an Austro-Germanic- 
Bulgarian force, armed with hundreds of heavy 
guns and supplied with enormous quantities of 
heavy shell. The Roumanians are very scantily 
supplied with heavy guns and I doubt whether 
their supplies of ammunition are sufficient to 
enable them to get through a continuous fight 
lasting over several weeks. 


I therefore once more urge that the General 
Staff should carefully consider what action we 


Me as ui es 
lo aid 
Roumania 
urged 


could take in conjunction with France 
and Italy immediately to relieve the 
pressure on Roumania if a formidable 
attack developed against her. There 


may be nothing in my fears, but no harm could 
be done by being prepared for all contingencies. 


D. Lloyd George. 

4/9/16” 


The Russians made a gallant effort to help the 
outnumbered and out-gunned Roumanian Army. 
But by Christmas the greater part of Roumania was 
in the hands of the enemy. The Roumanian King 
Advantages to was forced .to an abject peace, and a 
Germany of the country which had been a menace and 
Roumanian a peril to the Central Powers became to 
collapse them a fruitful source of much-needed 
supplies of oil and corn. Roumania and Serbia 
were both hors de combat ; Greece luid been 
neutralised, with the pro-German elements in ils 
Government right on top. Three countries which 
between them could have thrown more than a million 



THE BALKANS AND THE SOMME 547 

excellent soldiers into action on the side of the Allies 
had been eliminated from the calculations. The 
effort to save Roumania had finally exhausted the 
great strength of Russia. The Allied geneials in 
contemplating the results of their strategy found 
Aim w refu S e “ grotesque computations of 
heavier than German losses on the Somme. If icy 

German on were placed at a million on the British 

the Somme Front alone. We were left to imagine 

what havoc the French had wrought with their guns. 
Our great offensive had failed in the avowed objective 
of a break t hr ough and we took refuge in statistics. 
Sir Douglas Haig had not achieved his strategic aim, 
but a distinguished academician more than made up 
for the failure by a great statistical triumph he 
achieved in one of the back rooms of the War Office. 
The learned professor was acting under the direction 
and on information supplied by the “ Intelligence ” 
Department of the War Office. Surely its officials 
never displayed greater intelligence than when they 
played up to the urgent need of the army chiefs for 
some symbol of victory. As a matter of fact we lost 
on our front 50 per cent, more men than the Germans 
did. The French casualties were not as heavy as 
ours but they also were heavier than the German 
losses. 

Thus ended the third campaign of the Great War. 


IS 


VOL. II 



WAR MEMOIRS 


550 


shell ; and (3) shrapnel which was invaluable against 
masses of men moving in the open field or in searching 
out inadequate cover, became useless when the 
opposing troops were sheltering in a deep trench ; 
and therefore the need of the Army was for high 
explosive of the heaviest calibre to tear up wire and 
to crash into trenches and parapets. I had learned 
from the correspondence placed at my disposal by 
Sir John French that he had repeatedly urged this 
point of view upon Lord Kitchener. I therefore 
came to the conclusion that I had to take the risk 
of a personal initiative, not merely in methods adopted 
for executing orders which came from the War Office 
but in determining for myself what the needs of the 
Army were and in organising my programme 


accordingly. 

Not having the training of a soldier, and having no 
Personal knowledge of these matters beyond what I 
Decision to had acquired during the past few months 
consult with by contact with French generals and 
leaders in British officers — and these talks were not 

the field adequate to enable me to formulate a 

detailed and reliable programme for guns, machine- 
guns, and rifles — I decided to take immediate steps to 
consult with men of authority, and especially with 
men who had personal experience of the practical 
exigencies of the situation in the battlefield. It was 


useless to rely upon the Ordnance Department of the 
War Office. I was convinced that with them shrapnel 
was not a necessity of war but had become a point of 
honour. They felt that they could not desert it 
without a reflection upon their own prevision and 
patriotism. I decided, therefore, to go behind them 
to men who had first-hand knowledge of the actualities 
and requirements of the present War. This decision 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 55I 

was reflected in the following note which I find 
amongst my papers : — 

“ That a conference be arranged at the earliest 
moment between the French Military Authorities 
and M.M. (Minister of Munitions) on the one 
hand and the British Military Authorities and M.M. 
on the other with a view to arriving at a common 
basis for computing the number and calibres of 
guns and the quantity and natures of ammunition 
necessary to ensure the success of the next great 
offensive operation on the Western Front.” 

This turned out to be a momentous decision, for 
in the sequel it undoubtedly revolutionised the whole 
of our ideas as to the scale and character 
Conference at of the requirements of our Army. The 
Boulogne conference was fixed for 19th June, 1915, 
at Boulogne. Before this conference I 
was confronted with a gun programme which even 
those who then framed it afterwards admitted was 
quite unequal to the needs of the military situation. 
I decided to test its sufficiency by drawing upon the 
best experience available from the battle front. 1 
made arrangements with M. Albert Thomas, who 
was organising munitions in France, for the attendance 
of representatives of the French artillery. I asked him 
to bring along not merely the official adviser of his 
Ministry on these matters, but also, if possible, someone 
from the front who had actual experience of the effect 
of both the French and German artillery, with a view 
to ascertaining what kind of guns it would be most 
useful to manufacture, and in what proportions. 
Boulogne was crowded up to the attics and the only 
accommodation available for the conference was a 
frowsy room at a second-rate hotel (later in the 



WAR MEMOIRS 


552 

War the whole hotel was completely demolished 
down to the cellars by a bomb) . I had communicated 
with Sir John French and asked him to send his very 
best artillery expert to the conference. When I 
arrived at Boulogne I was met by General 
I ?nee t General Du Cane, who had been sent as the 
Du Cane Commander - in - Chief’s representative. 

As I discovered at the time, and even 
more completely later on, he was a man of great 
intelligence, and what was even more important to 
me under these conditions, he was more accessible 
to the influence of fresh facts and new ideas than most 
men high up in his profession with whom I had 
business dealings. The French were not present at 
the first conference, but I had a full discussion with 
General Du Cane and handed to him the following 
note for consideration : — 

“ Given an army of 1,000,000 men, what equip- 
ment would you require in guns of all natures — 
number of shells before you commenced 
My first a serious and sustained attack with a 
question view to breaking through the German 
lines ? ” 

This gives an idea of my views before the conference 
began. 

Later on in the course of the proceedings this 
further question was posed : — 

“ What weekly output of ammunitions should 
we aim at developing month by month in order 

My second. to SU PP 1 Y an army in France of 18 army 
question corps of 54 divisions, so as to allow it to 
develop its full power of offence ? ” 

The following day we had two meetings, and there 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


553 

were present, in addition to the British delegates, M. 
Albert Thomas, General Gossot, of the French 
War Office, and a young French officer of the 
French Headquarters Staff of the name of Colonel 
Walch. 

Before we came to the discussion of the guns there 
were some very important questions of co-ordination 
General between the various Governments to be 

arrangements cleared up. The situation that had 
m«f!if£>t inate arisen abroad was illustrated in the lack 
production of touch between the Allies on vital 
matters. Each of the Allied countries was running 
its own war on and behind the various fronts. I found 
that on munitions supply it was imperative that there 
should be much more intimate contact between the 
respective Governments. At the beginning of the 
year the Allies were still competing in the American 
market and putting up prices against each other. We 
and the Russians were competing for T.N.T. whilst 
all the Allies were doing the same for other explosives 
and other materials. In one case the British Govern- 
ment withdrew from purchasing when it was dis- 
covered that it was being played off against the 
Russians. The price of picric acid was forced up by 
the demands of the French, and the whole metal and 
machinery market was deranged owing to the activity 
of certain people acting for Russia. Even amongst 
the Allies themselves there was no efficient system of 
controlling purchases and no co-ordination. France, 
for example, could not obtain export licences for 
coke from this country ; and whilst demanding shell 
steel from us suddenly stopped the export of 
ferro-silicon. 

We then proceeded to consider the question of 
artillery. For hours we discussed the whole problem 



WAR MEMOIRS 


554 

of the kind of guns which the experience of the War 
had proved to be most useful, especially since the 
Artillery War had resolved itself into a question of 
problems : attacking and defending earthen fortresses. 

Colonel I soon discovered that the ideas of the 

U'alck s mews general were just as antiquated 

as our own. He had the same superstitious belief in 
the efficacy of the wonderful light French gun, the 
soixante-quinze, for all purposes as our own generals 
had in the all-round potency of shrapnel. I had to 
contend not with a profession but with a priesthood, 
devoted to its own chosen idol. General Gossot had 
not much, if any, experience at the front in this war 
and his ideas were purely historic. On the other 
hand, Colonel Walch had been a kind of artillery 
liaison officer, and in that capacity he had seen 
the French and German artillery in action from 
Switzerland up to the British lines, and he had 
observed with scientific care and accuracy the results 
produced by the different kinds of guns and shells. 
He was a young man not only of great intelligence but 
of reckless courage, for he threw over his command- 
ing officer with some approach to contempt for his 
ignorance. That demands more fearlessness for an 
army officer than crossing no-man’s-land in the face 
of a machine-gun. I found afterwards that lie 
was an Alsatian Huguenot, and he was certainly 
imbued with a full measure of the spirit of Protestant 
revolt against authority. The conference soon 
resolved itself into a dialogue between Colonel Walch 
and myself, neither Thomas, the French General nor 
G-eneral Du Cane taking much part. It was hardly a 
dialogue ; it was rather a cross-examination on my 
part with a view to extracting from Colonel Walch 
all the information which he undoubtedly possessed, 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


555 

and obtaining from him his definite opinion as to the 
kind of gun it would be most useful for us to manu- 
facture for the service of our army, having regard to 
the kind of warfare to which we were now committed. 

The hotel was situated opposite the English Epis- 
copal Church. A few yards lower down was the 
Scottish Presbyterian Church. After this 
Sabbath talk had been going on for hours, I heard 

incongruity through the open windows a distant 

sound of hymns being sung in these 
churches and soon after saw the congregations pouring 
out from the two churches, carrying prayer and hymn 
books in their hands. It suddenly occurred to me 
that this was Sunday morning and that I had been 
discussing earnestly with these officers the problem 
which was repeatedly referred to by Colonel Walch 
as a question “ which was the best gun for destroying 
material ” and “ which was the best gun for killing 
men.” And this on a day consecrated to the worship 
of the Prince of Peace. The thought made me 
shudder. I pulled myself together only by reflecting 
that this was a war that had been forced upon us by 
the arrogance of brute force crushing down the weak, 
and that I had been driven by the relendess hand of 
Fate to choose between giving my individual assent to 
the shedding of blood and assenting to a surrender of 
international right and liberty in Europe. 

By this time both General Du Cane and I had a very 
clear idea as to the lines upon which our gun pro- 
General gramme ought to proceed. I had the best 
Du Cane evidence afterwards that, although he 
widens his had taken no part in the proceedings, he 
mews had listened with great intentness and 

had not missed a word of the clear and emphatic 
statements of the young French artillerist. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


By that time we had both come to the definite con- 
clusion that our ideas as to the manufacture of artillery 
would have to be considerably enlarged, and that we 
should have to develop our gun construction on a very- 
much larger scale than anything that had been hither- 
to contemplated, both as regards quantity and calibre. 
On leaving the hotel for the boat, General Du Cane 
expressed his satisfaction with what he regarded as 
the most fruitful Council of War he had ever attended, 
and then he said to me : “ What I am about to say 
to you now will make you think much less of me.” I 
asked him what it was and lie replied : “ After this 
conference I have completely changed my mind as 
to the requirements of the Army.” T told him that his 
admission made me think far more highly of him and 
that it was creditable both to his intelligence and 
integrity. He promised that after consultation with 
the Commander-in-Chief he would prepare a revised 
estimate of the needs of the Army. 

At that date the War had been going on for ten 
months. Guns and shells had been a subject of 
vexatious and fretful correspondence between the 
soldiers at the front and the War Office, and yet this 
was the first conference that had taken place on that 
subject between the artillerists with actual battle 
experience on the French and British Fronts. 

As a result of this conference. Sir John French sent 
to the War Office on 25th June, 1915, a revised 
Sir John estimate of his requirements of heavy 
French makes guns. The War Office forwarded this 
an increased letter to the Ministry of Munitions on 30th 
u/i".and June, for observations, accompanied by a 
table showing the additional heavy guns which equip- 
ment on this scale would involve for a force of 70 
divisions. After an exchange of correspondence, the 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


557 

Ministry submitted a programme of its expected 
monthly gun deliveries up to the following spring, 
and towards the end of July drew up a revised pro- 
gramme showing a faster rate of delivery of heavy guns. 

I was not, however, satisfied with these programmes. 
In view of the information I had gathered at Boulogne, 
I was convinced that for the success of our operations, 
an overwhelming mass of guns of the heaviest calibres 
was essential — an opinion confirmed by the success 
My of our advance at Hooge, after a thorough 

“ Big Gun preliminary bombardment with heavy 
Programme” guns, in early August. After careful 
of August, 15 en q U j r y as to possible sources of supply in 
this country and abroad, I decided to put in hand a 
very greatly increased programme, which would 
provide guns on a scale ranging for some types up to 
25 per cent, above the War Office allowance, and 
this not for 70, but for 100 divisions. 

I felt that to break through the formidable entrench- 
ments of the Germans would involve a battering by 
artillery far heavier than the War Office yet realised, 
and that there should also be a margin available to 
provide for contingencies. If the guns were not all 
required for the various fronts of the British Army, 
the surplus would be available to supply the urgent 
needs of the Russians, who were at that moment 
suffering severely from the superior artillery of 
Germany and Austria. 

Sir H. Llewellyn Smith, on behalf of the Ministry 
of Munitions, sent to the War Office a statement 
showing my new programme, and ex- 
War Office plained in his covering letter : — 
informed 

“ I am therefore directed to state that 
orders have already been placed which will not only 



WAR MEMOIRS 


558 

cover the additional numbers suggested in your 
letter of 8th September, but will also provide a very 
considerable margin for possible future needs. The 
Minister has been influenced in providing such a 
margin by the important consideration that the 
ordering of these large quantities will make it 
worth while to have new machinery on a larger 
scale installed, both at home and abroad, which 
will hasten the dates at which considerable deliveries 
can take place in 1916. A larger number of heavy 
guns will by this plan be delivered during the critical 
first months of 1916 than would otherwise have 
been possible. . . .” 

It might have been imagined that the War Office 
would be delighted to learn that its desires were thus 
being more than fulfilled. On the contrary, it was 
furious at the presumption shown by the 
War Office Ministry in daring to increase or anticipate 
indignation the programme laid down for it. The 
preliminary warning of a storm came in 
the shape of a letter from the War Office, dated 1st 
October, 1915, which stated that on learning that 
the purchase of a large number of heavy howitzers 
over and above any demand made by the War Office 
was contemplated by your Ministry,” Lord Kitchener 
had consulted with Sir John French to find out how 
many he wanted, and obtained his confirmation that 
the schedule submitted by him in June represented 
his requirements. The Army Council, therefore, had 
no wish for my extra guns, and suggested that the 
orders for them should be transferred to Russia’s 
account. 

I directed an impenitent answer to be sent to the 
War Office. The letter pointed out that the large 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


559 

orders were necessary to secure early delivery of even 
the War Office figure of requirements, while early de- 
livery of the extra guns might well prove to have a 
decisive effect on the campaign. The letter con- 
tinued : — 

“ Should the Secretary of State differ from the 
above views, the Minister of Munitions is prepared 
at any time to discuss the matter with 
My refusal him, or if he should prefer, he might 
‘orders ‘ bring it before the attention of the 
Cabinet. The Minister is not, in any case, 
prepared to cancel the orders he has placed for 
the provision of heavy howitzers, unless the 
Government as a whole will take the responsi- 
bility of deciding that the proposed provision is 
excessive.” 


If in fact there proved to be a surplus, I said that it 
would still be possible to pass this on to the Allies. 
But I made no offer to adopt the suggestion that some 
of the guns should be manufactured to Russian 
patterns, as such an alteration of the orders I had 
placed would have upset the existing arrangements 
and caused considerable delay in gun production. 
This called forth the wrath of Lord Kitchener, who 


expressed his disapproval of the action of the Ministry 
of Munitions in a memorandum, entitled : 


Lord 

Kitchener ’s 
memorandum 


“ Supply of Heavy Guns to the Army,” 
which he circulated to the Cabinet. In 
this memorandum he called on the 


Cabinet to judge between him and me. He 
recounted the history of the dispute, and pointed out 
that the additional programme which I had put 
in hand entailed a provision of the following heavy 



WAR MEMOIRS 


56° 

g uns over and above the requirements of the War 
Office : — 

60-pdr. 120 guns, equivalent to 15 divisions 


6-in. howitzer 

220 „ 

>9 

» 27 


8-in. 

9.2-in. 

5? 

1 

\ 

259 » 


» 49 


1 2-in. 
15-in. 

5 > 

( 

1 

4 ° 


» 45 



639 


After describing the latest exchange of correspon- 
dence with the Ministry on the matter he declared : — 

“ The point I wish to emphasise is that, if these 
extra guns are ordered for the War Office, the War 
Office will not be able to provide the 
War Office personnel for the batteries required to 
C the 1 guns an P^ acc them in the field, for, even if the 
men were forthcoming, it would be quite 
impossible to find the artillery officers necessary for 
this service.” 

He urged, therefore, that these guns should be 
allotted to Russia, and should be manufactured to 
Russian calibres and patterns. 

Thereupon the matter was thrashed out in the 
Cabinet. But I gave way neither on the issue of 
reducing my orders nor on that of making 
Cabinet the guns to the Russian pattern, for if 

discussion surplus guns should be available for the 

Russians it would be possible to furnish them 
with ammunition as well. I had for some time been 
urging that arrangements should be made to equip 
the Russians ; but to change these orders to Russian 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 561 

calibres and patterns would have involved delays and 
complications in production. The Cabinet appointed 
a Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Crewe 
to deal with the matter. It sat once, at the Ministry 
of Munitions, and examined General von Donop, 
who repeated his objections to the enlarged pro- 
gramme. I did not state my case in reply. Here is an 
extract from Sir William Sutherland’s notes, taken at 
the meeting : — 

. . I was somewhat mystified as to what was 
the official finding of the meeting ; the various 
speeches being severely critical as described, and 
Mr. Lloyd George, beyond outlining the position 
generally, not making the spirited and continuous 
fight so often showed by him in similar circum- 
stances. 

‘ I suppose, sir,’ said J. T. Davies when 
Fate of the the meeting was over, ‘ that means the 
Committee end of your programme.’ 

* No,’ said Mr. Lloyd George, ‘ It means 
the end of the Committee,’ and straightaway 
started his orders for the prodigious work.” 

In fact the Committee adjourned without coming 
to any decision, and never met again. The subject 
was dropped — but not the programme. I pushed 
that through. Before I ceased to be Minister of 
Munitions, it turned out that even more guns were 
needed by our Army than the large number I had 
ordered. When they were furnished by the 
machinery and facilities the Ministry of Munitions 
had ordered for the enlargement of production, no 
difficulty was experienced in finding the necessary 
complement of officers and men for the batteries. 
I may here anticipate the course of events so far 



WAR MEMOIRS 


562 

as to point out that when the Ministry of Munitions 
finally produced this “ unhouselled and unanncalcd ” 
surplusage of guns, the War Office resolutely refused 
to part with them to help Russia, on the ground 
that they were all needed by our own troops in 
France, and a good many more. It was with 
difficulty that I persuaded the Staff to dispense with 
a few of the lighter guns for Russia. 

But at first there was a good deal of gibing and 
sniping about what was called my mad production of 
heavy guns, and I had evidence that the War Office 
meant to neutralise my extravagance by refusing to 
train artillerists to man this wasteful surplus. I 
decided to take the matter up with the Prime Minister, 
and if necessary with the War Committee, and in 
order to check the facts upon which I intended to base 
my case, I wrote on 15th November, 1915, to General 
Sir Ivor Philipps, who had been Military Secretary to 
the Ministry at the time the order was given, to ask 
him for his recollection of my instructions. He was at 
that time preparing to leave for France with the 
Division he commanded. His reply was as follows : — 

“ Headquarters, 

38th (Welsh) Division, 

Avington Park Camp, 

Winchester. 

My dear Minister, 

When the Big Gun Programme was under 
discussion you repeatedly urged on your staff that 
General Y our main object in increasing the order 
Sir Ivor for guns was to ensure the maximum 
Philipps’ s possible delivery at the earliest possible 
UlM date. This you specially impressed on us, 
both verbally and in writing. The necessity for 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 563 

impressing early deliveries by giving larger orders 
to contractors was passed on by me to the depart- 
ments concerned, and we did our utmost to see 
that your very clear orders on the subject were 
carried out. 

In many conversations with me you stated that 
your main objects in placing the Big Gun orders 
were : — 

1. To ensure earliest possible deliveries by 
giving large orders to firms to encourage them to 
increase their power of output. 

2. To provide guns for ioo divisions, should 
necessity arise hereafter to put that number in 
the Field. 

3. To provide a surplus of very heavy guns to 
meet the latest views of advanced French artillery 
experts, that the teachings of the War tended to 
show that in future more and more of heavy guns 
would be required to secure victory. 

4. That if these guns were in excess of our 
own requirements, they would be invaluable as 
a reserve to assist our Allies. 

It must be remembered that you laboured under 
great difficulties. You got no assistance from the 
War Office. 

After your Conference at Boulogne with M. 
Thomas and the French artillery experts, as a 
result of the information you then collected the War 
Office at once put forward an increased and entirely 
revised programme. 

No suggestion of this increased programme had 
been mentioned by the War Office while the order- 
ing of guns was in their hands. When, however, 
the responsibility was on your shoulders, the 


VOL. II 


G 



WAR MEMOIRS 


5 6 4 

demands of the War Office were at once increased. 

I do not think you need fear that you have 
ordered too many guns or shells. What you have 
to consider in the War Council is, whether you are 
preparing to man the guns or even half of them 
when delivered. I fear that the War Council is 
neglecting this point. You will remember that I 
prepared a note on the subject when at the Ministry. 
You have done your share of the work of providing 
guns and shells ; the country will one day appreciate 
your great work in this respect. 

Yours sincerely, 

Ivor Philipps.” 

I have quoted this letter in full because it gives in 
compact form, and from the pen of a distinguished 
Army officer, a summary alike of my attitude to this 
issue and of the War Office reluctance to admit the need 
for the guns I was providing. In contrast to their 
attitude then, I may add that a year later. Sir William 
Robertson, writing in November, 1916, said : — 

“ We must have a much greater amount of 
heavy artillery than we now possess, and be able 
Changed to turn out an almost unlimited amount 

Army views Q f ammunition.” 
in 1916 

At the same time Sir Douglas Haig wrote : — 

“ An ample supply of munitions is also an 
essential. The enormous quantities required have 
been furnished this year with unfailing regularity. 
But the great reserves required in readiness for 
next year can only be accumulated by reducing 
expenditure to an absolute minimum during the 
winter, and then only provided the output can be 
maintained at the full rates estimated.” 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 565 

The “ Official History of the War ” makes it clear 
that even the “ extravagant ” programme, for which 
I took responsibility, was insufficient for the purpose 
of bombarding the elaborate entrenchments con- 
structed on the Somme plateau by the Germans. 
The official historian points out that we had a shortage 
of guns, more especially in the heavier calibres. These 
were the very calibres where I had exceeded the 
amended requisition of the War Office and thus 
drawn on myself Lord Kitchener’s censure. 

By November, 1916, a whole series of increased 
demands for big guns had been made by the War 
Office, and the Ministry of Munitions had been 
compelled to expand considerably the programme 
which I had been pressed so hard to curtail. Fortun- 
ately I had acquired machinery which was equal to 
the manufacture of this expanded requisition. 

2 . NATIONAL FACTORIES 

To increase the supply of shells was our most 
immediate aim, for it was the shell shortage which 
had chiefly impressed the popular imagination and 
brought about the crisis which gave birth to the 
Ministry. But along with shells I had 
^ n s e °f l!le undertaken the responsibility for all the 
task‘ St ^ S rest the wide range of military supplies 

— guns, rifles, machine-guns, bombs, 
trench-warfare equipment, military transport, and 
optical instruments. Soon after the formation of 
the Ministry, tanks were handed over by the Admiralty. 
Control of the output of the finished article led 
inevitably to control of the preliminary stages of 
manufacture, back to the raw materials involved. 

The consequence was that the scope of control 



566 WAR MEMOIRS 

exercised by the Ministry widened steadily and 
ineluctably until before the end of the 
Giowth of War it covered practically the whole 

afntwl ™ 1 industrial life of the nation. The form 

of control became increasingly stringent 
with the progressive shortage of materials, until by 
the end of the War no one could start a new business 
or enlarge an old one except for war purposes. 
Everyone was liable to have buildings, plant or 
machinery requisitioned for more urgent work. None 
of the industrial metals and few raw materials could 
be used by anyone without Government licence. 
The nation concentrated all its great strength and 
skill on victory. 

The materials which the Ministry of Munitions 
brought under its control included nearly a hundred 
main categories, and extended not only to more 
obvious articles such as iron, steel, copper, chemicals, 
and machine tools, but to bricks, flax-seed, glass-ware, 
waste paper and yarn. Ultimately the Ministry 
assumed responsibility for all visible supplies of such 
materials, controlled all private importation and the 
distribution of materials to non-munition as well as 
to munition trades, thereby virtually bringing all the 
industries using materials which entered into pro- 
duction of munitions under the control of the 
department. 

It was not an arbitrary bureaucracy ; for the 
Ministry acted throughout in very close co-operation 
with the particular trade or industry 
fhefrade con t r ofled. Frequently, important mem- 
organisations bers of the trade had official posts and 
executive authority in the Ministry ; while 
in these and other cases an Advisory Committee re- 
presenting the trade was constituted as a consultative 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


567 

body to advise the department or section of the 
Ministry concerned. Where a trade had already a 
representative association, we discussed matters with 
it ; and if no such body already existed, we sought to 
promote its formation. By contributing to, or bearing 
the whole cost of, needed extensions and adaptations 
of factories on the one hand, and by arrangements 
for limitation of profits and the operation of the 
Excess Profits Duty on the other, our national industry 
was welded into a great public undertaking for the 
winning of the War. 

Even after utilising every workshop and factory 
capable of turning out munitions, we found that the 
output would be inadequate unless we 
Developing supplemented our resources by the setting 
new factories U p of emergency buildings. This was 
more particularly the case when we came 
to the larger calibre shells and facilities for shell-filling. 
I therefore took steps to press forward as soon as the 
Ministry of Munitions was set up the policy which I 
had already been promoting as Chairman of the 
Munitions of War Committee, of organising special 
national factories for the definite purpose of supple- 
menting our existing resources for munition produc- 
tion ; particularly for making shells and explosives, 
for shell-filling and completing ammunition. 

The first few months of the Ministry’s existence saw 
the establishment of an imposing group of these 
national factories. By the end of 
Achievements December, 1915, when the Ministry had 
months 3 ™ 6 * 1 been in existence only seven months, 
there were, in addition to the Royal 
Factories at Woolwich, Waltham Abbey, Enfield 
Lock and Farnborough — which had been transferred 
from the War Office in the course of the autumn — 



WAR MEMOIRS 


568 

and certain factories for explosives, no less than 
73 new national factories. Of these, 36 were 
national shell factories for turning out the lighter 
natures of shell ; 13 were national projectile 

factories, mainly concerned with heavier shell ; 13 
were national filling factories. There were eight 
new factories for making explosives, a new factory 
for filling trench mortar bombs, and two gauge 
factories which I took over to ensure an adequate 
supply of gauges for the new concerns which were 
springing up everywhere to produce munitions. 
Progress had been hampered in every direction by 
the inadequate supply of gauges. 

As time went on, this array of national factories 
was steadily increased, both in number and in the 
variety of the products for the inanu- 
Total by end facture of which they were ci'ccted or 
of the War adapted. By the end of the War they 

numbered in all 218 ; and covered not 
only every kind of munition, from cannon and 
aeroplanes to small-arms ammunition, but saw-mills, 
factories for boxes, tools, optical instruments and 
ball-bearings, and establishments for sorting and 
storing salvage. 

The total of 218 included the four Royal Factories 
which were in existence before the War, the wood 
alcohol factory at Coleford set up by the Woods and 
Forests Department in 1913, and three or four 
explosives factories initiated by the War Office or by 
Lord Moulton’s Committee on High Explosives 
between November, 1914, and May, 1915. Two of 
the national shell factories had already been begun 
under the Munitions of War Committee before the 
Ministry of Munitions was set up. Over nine-tenths 
of the remaining two hundred odd factories were 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


569 

constructed under the auspices of the Ministry, or 
with the aid of Government advances, leaving less 
than a score of establishments which were already 
engaged on production of necessary supplies such as 
gauges, ball-bearings, cotton waste or acetone, before 
they were taken over and nationalised. 

The total covers only concerns engaged in manu- 
facture or repair. It excludes the large classes of 
inspection and storage depots, mines. 
Other quarries, and other similar undertakings 

\ works ° n which were controlled by the Ministry. 

It excludes also the State-owned plant 
within the works of contractors, even where operated 
by servants of the department. And, of course, it 
does not touch the vast array of private firms which, 
frequently with the aid of substantial Government 
subsidies, were busily engaged upon munition 
manufacture. The great nucleus of national factories 
stood at the heart of the munitions industry as a 
colossal supplement to the Royal Ordnance Factories 
and a guarantee, within the hand of the Government, 
that the supplies for our armies could be expanded to 
meet the rapidly increasing demands from the front. 

The first group of these factories which I was 
responsible for setting up was the group of national 
shell factories. The pioneer of these 
The shell was the factory at Leeds, started by the 
factories Local Munitions Committee in May, 1915. 

The Leeds engineering firms had been 
urged to arrange a scheme of co-operation for 
production of munitions, and like practical men, they 
went to Woolwich in April to study the processes 
involved. Thereupon they came to the conclusion 
that the best way for them to work was to take or 
erect premises where, with their joint assistance, tools. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


57 ° 

workmen, supervision and inspection could all be 
assembled and the work carried out on a non-profit 
basis by a committee of management. 

By 7th May, a draft scheme had secured general 
approval, and the next day the formal sanction of the 
Government was given and the work was put in hand 
forthwith. On 31st May, a national shell factoiy 
was approved for Keighley, and when at the beginning 
of June, I made my tour, as Minister of Munitions- 
elect, of the industrial districts, I was able to point 
to the Leeds effort as an example which could lie 
widely applied. The idea was eagerly taken up, 
and as a result seventeen of these factories had been 
approved by me before the end of June, and ten more 
were added before the end of September. 

These national shell factories were co-operative 
undertakings run by Boards of Management approved 
by the Ministry and provided by the local 
Method of Munitions Committees. They represented 
organisation i n the main engineering talent which had 
not hitherto been engaged in any shell 
production, and at first they were chiefly concerned 
with the manufacture of the lighter types of shell. 
As time went on they were able to extend their range 
to include some of the heavier natures, and before the 
end of the War three factories at Leeds which had begun 
as shell factories were transferred to the ordnance 
factory class. 

The national shell factories harnessed the ability 
of the engineering industry outside the existing 
armament firms. I was also concerned to make 
fuller use of the experience inside these firms, par- 
ticularly for the production of heavy shell. In July, 
I 9 1 5s jl l e actual output of this shell was far below the 
promises which had been made, and the demands 



ivi i in i a l K Y Ub' MUNITIONS 5^1 

of the army in the field for large high-explosive shell 
were rapidly growing. I was arranging a big increase 
in the programme of heavy artillery, and I had to 
ensure an adequate supply of ammunition for these 
additional guns, as well as for those already in the 
field. 

Accordingly, on 13th July, 19x5, I held a conference 
with the representatives of nine leading armament 
firms to see what steps must be taken to 
Projectile ensure the completion not only of existing 
factories programmes, but of the new and much 
bigger programmes which would be 

required. 

The method hitherto adopted by the War Office 
of relying upon the existing works, extended with the 
aid of the grants from the Exchequer which I had 
authorised in the previous autumn, had proved 
definitely inadequate. But the armament firms 
strongly disliked the idea of my proceeding to found 
new and independent national factories for the 
production of heavy shell. So we reached a com- 
promise. The armament firms would themselves 
build and manage new factories, additional to their 
existing works, the Government providing all the 
capital, both for the building and the running. The 
new factories would be Government property and 
the armament firms would provide managers to run 
them as Government agents, and under the control 
of the Ministry. The firms setting up and managing 
these works for the Ministry would get a percentage 
commission on the output. I must add that Messrs. 
Cammell Laird refused to take any commission for 
erection or management of the factory they set up 
in Nottingham. These factories were known as 
national projectile factories, as distinct from the 



WAR MEMOIRS 


572 

national shell factories which I have already 
described. Seven national projectile factories were 
started in the following month, August, 1915, and 
four in September ; and by the end of 1915 the 
number had risen to thirteen. Before the War ended 
there were fifteen, and, in addition, five of the national 
shell factories were transferred to the department of 
the Ministry managing the projectile factories, on 
account of the nature of the work they were 
carrying out. 

Some indication of the speed with which these 
national factories got into their stride, and of (he 
Achievements service they were able to render, can be 
of shell and gathered from the following figures. 
projectile Output from the national shell factories 
factories started, in the case of the first-established 
among them, in the summer of 1915, and from the 
earlier national projectile factories in the autumn 
of that year. In these closing months of 1915 their 
combined output was 200,400 empty shell, nearly 
all of the lighter natures. In 1916, their total output 
was 6,712,300, more than half of which was medium 
and heavy shell. 

In just over three years, from mid- 19 15 to the close 
of hostilities in 1918, the combined total output ol 
empty shell from the national shell and national 
projectile factories was 40,143,300. 

Further, the cost of shell produced by these factories 
was decidedly lower than that of supplies from outside 
firms— so much so that in the case of the national 
projectile factories it amply compensated for the loss 
of value incurred through the difference between the 
original cost of their erection and equipment and the 
sums ultimately realised by them on disposal, while 
the lower costs achieved by the national shell factories 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 573 

not only made a large direct saving in expenditure 
on supplies, but enabled the charges of outside firms 
to be checked and reduced. 

Like the national shell factories, the national 
projectile factories were used as time went on for a 
variety of other purposes in addition to shell pro- 
duction. In 1917, seven of them were busy on gun 
repair, one on making gun parts, and another on 
making guns. Yet another, Gathcart, turned over 
to aeroplane work from May, 1917. Grenade 
mortars, aero-engines, and shells for the Italians 
were among the supplies turned out by these factories ; 
and before the end of the War five of them had 
become classified as ordnance factories, and were 
mainly occupied in making and repairing cannon. 

3. FILLING THE SHELLS 

The two groups of factory I have described, the 
shell and the projectile factories, ensured a provision 
of empty shell, but it was also necessary to provide 
explosives to fill and propel them, and works to carry 
out the filling and completion of rounds of ammuni- 
tion. The story of the arrangements made for shell 
filling by the War Office is a sardonic comment on 
the attack directed against civilians for their pre- 
sumptuous interference with the professional soldier 
in the discharge of his duties. 

The need to secure outside sources of supply for 
high explosives had been realised early in the War 
by the War Office, for the excellent reason 
Supply of that the manufacture of high explosives 
explosives had never been undertaken by the 
ordnance factories. There was practically 
no trade capacity for the manufacture of military 



WAR MEMOIRS 


574 

tri-nitro-toluene, commonly known as T.N.T., a coal 
extract which eventually became an important in- 
gredient in the bursting charge of high-explosive 
shell, and the stocks of the commercial explosive 
which were available needed treatment to bring 
them up to service standards. 

The Defence of the Realm (Consolidation) Act, 
1914, became law on 27th November, 1914. Under 
it the Government had power to take over factories 
engaged in the production of warlike stores, and the 
very next day the War Office descended on the 
Rainham Chemical Works, on the Thames opposite 
Woolwich, and commandeered them for the purifi- 
cation of crude T.N.T. At this time, however, the 
available supply was only about 10 or 12 tons a 
week, provided by a single firm. 

The Board of Trade, when approached by the War 
Office, recommended that a distinguished civilian, 
Lord Moulton, should be entrusted with 
L °f d i > the organisation of an adequate supply 
wott t0U S °f explosives. He was the ablest scientific 
lawyer of his generation. He was 
appointed Chairman of a Committee of High Ex- 
plosives. He insisted that a new State factory must 
be set up for T.N.T. production, and made an 
arrangement with a firm of acid manufacturers, 
Messrs. Chance and Hunt, in December, 1914, 
whereby they set to work in January, 1915, to erect 
at Oldbury a factory for the Explosives Supply 
Branch of the War Office. This was the first national 
factory for manufacturing T.N.T. 

Lord Moulton further entered into an arrangement 
with the Admiralty to set up a big factory at Queen’s 
Ferry for production of gun-cotton. But the site 
could not be secured until May, 1915, and at the 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 575 

end of that month the Admiralty backed out of 
the arrangement. The new factory thus fell to the 
Ministry of Munitions, and was developed for the 
production of not only gun-cotton, but T.N.T. On 
becoming Minister of Munitions I found that there 
had been no survey of the prospective demand for 
explosives in view of orders already given, and that 
the provision then made for the production of ex- 
plosives was quite inadequate to supply prospective 
requirements. In July, 1915, four more national 
explosives factories were established by the Ministry, 
including the huge factory at Gretna for the pro- 
duction of cordite. The construction of this factory 
had been recommended in May by the Munitions 
of War Committee, of which I was chairman, and 
was authorised by me as Minister of Munitions in 
the following month. It was also based on plans 
and proposals prepared, at the request of the Com- 
mittee, by Lord Moulton. 

The assistance rendered to the nation by Lord 
Moulton in this matter of explosives has never been 
sufficiently recognised. 

By the end of the War there were no fewer than 
32 H.M. explosives factories among the national 
factories controlled by the Ministry. 
Explosives We had been compelled to build these 
factories factories ourselves, because for some 
explosives, such as T.N.T., there was 
before the War an entire lack of industrial capacity, 
while for others like cordite there appeared to be no 
prospect of a large-scale demand after the War which 
would induce existing manufacturers to extend their 
works. In consequence of these arrangements in 
the case of explosives, the bulk of our home-produced 
war supplies came from these new national factories. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


576 

At the outbreak of the War, State production was 
limited to the Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham 
Abbey, which made about 75 short tons (i.e., 
150,000 lb.) of cordite and gunpowder a week. By 
1917, the national explosives factories were pro- 
ducing over ten times this quantity of cordite weekly, 
and of explosives of all kinds more than 2,000 tons a 
week. In the course of the War, the grand 
Achievement total of their output of explosives was over 
factories ™ 85 thousand tons : being 236,251 tons of 

high explosive (mainly T.N.T.) and 81,341 
tons of propellants (mainly cordite) . The need for these 
factories is illustrated by figures given by Lord Moulton 
in a paper dated 13th April, 1915, which he prepared 
for the Munitions of War Committee. He showed that 
the total estimated amounts of high explosives required 
by the Navy and Army in the months of February and 
March, 1915, were 4,505,600 lb. The actual supplies 
obtained and used were 1,038,802 lb., or considerably 
less than a quarter of the requirements. 

Like the national shell and projectile factories, 
these explosives factories proved of great value, apart 
from the essential importance of their output, in 
furnishing data for simplification of process and 
reduction of cost in the production of supplies by 
other firms. The system of cost and efficiency returns 
which was established in them gave rise to a general 
competition in economy, not only between different 
national factories, but between these and the trade 
manufacturers. They provided a very economical 
source of supply as compared with either American 
sources or British contractors, and enabled very 
considerable reductions to be made in 1917 in the 
contract price for explosives. 

But our troubles over explosives were not confined 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


577 

to the difficulties and delays of construction and 
equipment of our factories in war-time, when there 
was so much competition for labour and material. 
The most formidable obstruction I had to overcome 
Military came from the tardiness with which the 

obstruction : War Office adapted itself to new con- 

Moulton’s ditions and fresh demands. It led to 

protest an emergency so critical that it very 

nearly wrecked the whole of our shell programme. 
This choice specimen of military rigidity in high 
quarters is best told in the words of Lord Moulton 
himself. Soon after I was nominated Minister of 
Munitions I received from him a letter, which apart 
from the fact that it is a startling exposure of military 
bureaucracy, is an interesting account of the kind and 
quantity of explosives fired in the War : — 

“ Ministry of Munitions of War, 

Explosives Department, 

Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 

Storey’s Gate, 

Westminster, S.W. 

1 6th June, 1915. 

Dear Mr. Lloyd George, 

There is a matter of the greatest importance 
as to which I must request your advice and help 
in your position as Minister of Munitions. 

From the time that I was first consulted on the 
question of the provision of high explosives I 
recognised that the lavish expenditure of these 
explosives which is characteristic of the present 
war made it absolutely impossible to proceed on 
the lines which up to that time had regulated our 
naval and military services. The adoption of 
T.N.T. as our principal high explosive was but 



WAR MEMOIRS 


578 

two or three months old when the War began, and 
I doubt whether there was at that time a production 
of 20 tons per week of this explosive in the whole of 
Great Britain, while the production of lyddite 
must almost have ceased by reason of the belief 
that it would be substantially superseded by T.N.T. 
Would-be suppliers were told by War Office 
officials that it would not be used. Of neither of 
these explosives was there any Government manu- 
facture or even any industrial manufacture except 
such as I have mentioned. When I add that in little 
more than two days the Germans fired off over 800 tons of 
such explosives* you will see how absolutely impossible 
it was to rely on the sources of supply which then 
existed. . . . 

The only hope of obtaining an adequate supply 
of explosive lies in the proper production and 
utilisation of T.N.T. 

T his produce has the property of animating 
explosives, of which it forms only a small part, the 
remainder being principally nitrate of ammonia, a 
substance which can be obtained in practically un- 
limited quantities. Schneiderite, which is at the 
moment the favourite explosive of the French, is 
of this type. Only one-tenth of it is T.N.T. . . . 

So soon as I had realised the position I put it 
before the naval and military authorities, and 
pointed out that it was absolutely necessary to 
widen the list of high explosives and not to be 
content with using T.N.T. or lyddite alone. I 
fear it produced little impression at the time. But 
two or three months after I had done so, the 
Research Department at Woolwich demonstrated 
that by mixing T.N.T. with nitrate of ammonia 

* My italics. D. LI. G. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 579 

they produced an explosive which was much more 
powerful than T.N.T. and equally safe. They 
showed that this could be done to an extent of 
one to four without lessening its explosive force 
and that it could be done to an extent of nearly 
half and half without even interfering with the 
existing convenient method of filling shells by 
melting the T.N.T. and pouring it into the shells. 
Some two months ago the use of this mixture was 
approved and directions were given that it should 
be applied to the whole of the land service for 
six-inch shells downwards and experiments were 
directed to be made with regard to the larger 
shells. . . . 

To my great regret I find that those who have 
charge of the loading of shells have for the last two 
months completely disregarded the direc- 
Waste of tion and now say that they do not propose 
T.N.T. to use the mixture for another month. I 
know of no reason except that they say that 
they have not got their warming cupboards for 
the nitrate of ammonia and it will take them some 
time to get them fitted up. I have no hesitation 
in saying that such a matter is quite trivial in 
comparison with the importance of so vital an 
improvement in our explosive supply at a critical 
period like this, and that to overcome such a 
difficulty should not have required more than a 
few days. . . . 

I am certain that the possibility of an adequate 
supply of high explosives for the needs of the 
Services depends on the cordial acceptance of the 
means of economising the T.N.T. such as I have 
indicated, by artillerists and more especially by 
those in charge of the loading of shells. It is 



WAR MEMOIRS 


58° 

hopeless for me to struggle to meet the extraordinary 
demands created by the War if there is on their part a 
disregard of or a reluctance to accept the necessary 
modifications of our artillery methods, which good sense 
and an appreciation of the magnitude of the problem 
before us dictate .* 

You will excuse my speaking thus frankly, but I 
am satisfied that I have not said a word that I 
cannot support, and it is only by your coming to 
my help as Minister of Munitions that I can hope 
to obtain immediate and implicit acceptance of 
these all-important conditions of the supply to the 
Services. 

Yours sincerely, 

Moulton.” 

I realised that unless I could persuade the War 
Office to accept some considerable modification in 
the character of the explosive used for filling, it was 
no use pressing forward the manufacture of shells, 
for we should not possess a sufficient quantity of the 
necessary ingredients to complete them. But here 
I was up against the inveterate rivalry 
Rivalry of between soldier and sailor. The Admiralty 

the Services would not forgo their full quota of 

T.N.T. Why should the War Office be 
satisfied with a shell which was less perfect than that 
which the Admiralty insisted upon ? This was not 
a question of factory supplies, but of departmental 
prestige. However, after a protracted struggle in- 
volving a loss of valuable time in the output of 
complete shell, a certain relaxation was achieved of 
the maximum requirements of the War Office. This 
enabled me to get along for a few weeks. But there 

* My italics. D. LI. G. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 581 

was not enough T.N.T. to supply all the requirements 
of the shell programme, even in the reduced pro- 
portions which the War Office was prepared to 
allow. The delay was holding up the orders for 
machinery for the new filling factories, even the 
building of these factories. The character of the 
machine depended on whether the filling should be 
liquid or dry, and that again depended on the 
proportions of T.N.T. and ammonium nitrate, and 
the lay-out of the building depended on the kind of 
machinery which would be installed. The fight went 
on, and the consequent delays became more serious 
until the whole responsibility for design was wrenched 
from the War Office. We were turning out stacks 
of empty shell, but owing to these delays in deciding 
the mixture for the filling, the supply of complete 
shell was lagging seriously behind. 

Two men in particular helped me to overcome this 
barrier erected by professional suspicion and pro- 
crastination. One was Sir Eric Geddes, 
Lord Lee of of whom I have already spoken, the other 
Fareham was Colonel Arthur Lee (now Lord Lee 
of Fareham). When Sir Ivor Philipps was 
appointed to the command of the Welsh Division in 
October, 1915, I invited Colonel Arthur Lee to 
become his successor. By training he was an artillery 
officer and thus possessed first-hand knowledge of 
some of our difficulties. I had known him for years 
as a Member of the House of Commons. He was 
an able critic of the policies in which I was concerned 
as a Minister. I recognised his efficiency and in- 
telligence as an opponent. He had taken a leading 
part in the agitation for eight dreadnoughts in 1908, 
and I am not sure he was not the inventor of the very 
telling phrase “ We want eight and will not wait.” 



WAR MEMOIRS 


582 

I had on more than one occasion crossed swords 
with him in debate. He was a skilful swordsman, 
who gave few openings because he had the gift of 
both mastering his case thoroughly and presenting it 
forcibly. Early in the year 1915, on his temporary 
leave from France, he had brought me some startling 
information as to the failure of our artillery to make 
any impression on the barbed-wire entanglements of 
the enemy. He was a man of untiring industry, great 
resource, and practical capacity. Although an officer 
in the Army and proud of his profession, he was one 
of the few whose judgment was not paralysed by an 
opinion expressed by a senior in rank. I found that 
in every crisis he had a cool head, a clear eye, and 
a stout heart. During the many ensuing years of 
almost crushing responsibility through which I was 
destined to pass I found his understanding, his 
loyalty, and his courage of immeasurable support. 
As soon as he joined me at the Ministry of Munitions 
he spent his first few days in scouting around to see 
what was — and what was not — going on. With 
unerring judgment he fastened on the shell-filling 
snag. He it was who also perceived that Eric 
Geddes was the best man in the Ministry to undertake 
the task of reorganising that essential part of our 
business. 

Among the interesting developments to which the 
chemical side of warfare gave rise I must mention 
the story of acetone. Here again we 
The acetone nearly came to grief for lack of timely 
problem forethought. This chemical, which was 
an essential clement in the process of 
manufacturing cordite, for cartridges great and small, 
was commonly produced by destructive distillation 
of wood. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 583 

Before the War there was a small factory in the 
Forest of Dean set up by the Office of Woods and 
Forests to utilise waste cordwood. In May, 1915, 
this Office set up two fresh factories at Bideford and 
Dundee, which were transferred, together with the 
Coleford factory, to the Ministry in October. 
Messrs. Kynoch’s also set up a factory in the New 
Forest, which was nationalised in 1917. But this 
country is not one of the great timber-growing 
lands, and it takes a great deal of wood to produce a 
ton of acetone, so in practice we were dependent 
for the great bulk of our supply on imports from 
America. 

But by the spring of 1915 the position in the 
American acetone market had become extremely 
delicate. British cordite firms were competing with 
each other and with the agents for the Allies. Prices 
were being forced up. American contractors were 
selling their output twice over and defaulting on their 
contracts. They even went to the length of insisting 
upon an advance in price upon their existing contracts 
with the British Government, and in the case of their 
default it proved impossible to recover damages from 
them. 

Prompt steps were taken over here to eliminate 
the competition between British cordite makers for 
American acetone. But when this had been done 
and arrangements had been made for the purchase 
of all overseas supplies immediately available, I was 
confronted by a much more serious crisis. In the 
survey we made of all the various prospective require- 
ments, it soon became clear that the supplies of wood 
alcohol for the manufacture of acetone would prove 
quite insufficient to meet the increasing demands, 
particularly in 1916. The matter was urgent, for 



584 WAR MEMOIRS 

without the acetone there would be no cordite for 
our cartridges, for either rifles or big guns. 

As Chairman of the Munitions of War Committee 
I took this matter greatly to heart. While I was 
casting about for some solution of the difficulty, I 
ran against the late C. P. Scott, Editor of the 
Manchester Guardian. He was a friend in whose 
wisdom I had implicit faith. I told him of my 
problem and that I was on the look-out for a resource- 
ful chemist who would help me to solve it. He said : 
“ There is a very remarkable professor of chemistry 
in the University of Manchester willing to place his 
services at the disposal of the State. I must tell you, 
however, that he was born somewhere near the 
Vistula, and I am not sure on which side. His name 
is Weizmann.” Scott could guarantee 
Wot k of Prof, that whatever the country of origin, 
Weizmann Weizmann was thoroughly devoted to the 
cause of the Allies, that the one thing he 
really cared about was Zionism, and that he was 
convinced that in the victory of the Allies alone was 
there any hope for his people. I knew Mr. Scott 
to be one of the shrewdest judges of men I had ever 
met. The world renown of his great paper had 
been built up on the soundness of his judgment — 
of men as well as of affairs. But I also trusted his 
patriotism implicitly. Pacifist as he was he believed 
in the essential justice of our intervention in this 
War. I took his word about Professor Weizmann 
and invited him to London to sec me. I took 
to him at once. He is now a man of international 
fame. He was then quite unknown to the general 
public, but as soon as I met him I realised that he 
was a very remarkable personality. His brow gave 
assurance of a fine intellect and his open countenance 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 585 

gave confidence in his complete sincerity. I told him 
that we were in a chemical dilemma and asked him 
to assist us. I explained the shortage in wood 
alcohol and what it meant in munitionment. Could 
he help ? Dr. Weizmann said he did not know, but 
he would try. He could produce acetone by a 
fermentation process on a laboratory scale, but it 
would require some time before he could guarantee 
successful production on a manufacturing scale. 

“ How long can you give me ? ” he asked. I said : 
“ I cannot give you very long. It is pressing.” 
Weizmann replied : “I will go at it night and 
day.” 

In a few weeks’ time he came to me and said : 
“ The problem is solved.” After a prolonged 
study of the micro-flora existing 
He solves on maize and other cereals, also 

the problem G f those occurring in the soil, he 

had succeeded in isolating an organism 
capable of transforming the starch of cereals, 
particularly that of maize, into a mixture of 
acetone butyl alcohol. The generations of these 
organisms die very quickly, and in quite a short 
time, working night and day as he had promised, 
he had secured a culture which would enable us to 
get our acetone from maize. 

Now maize contains about two-thirds its weight of 
starch, and our sources of supply were very wide ; 
so that this discovery enabled us to produce very 
considerable quantities of the vital chemical. To-day 
this discovery is the centre of an important 
industry. 

In King’s Lynn there was an oil-cake factory 
which had been converted in 1912 to make acetone 
from the starch content of potatoes. It had come 



WAR MEMOIRS 


586 

into the field with promises of supply, but the quality 
of its output was not satisfactory, and financially the 
company was unsteady. So in March, 1916, it was 
nationalised, and by June it was making acetone 
from maize by the Weizmann process with highly 
successful and valuable results. The shipping short- 
age in 1917, which forced us to restrict all unnecessary 
imports, introduced yet another experi- 
Horse-chestnuts ment. In the autumn of that year, 
for acetone horse-chestnuts were plentiful, and a 
national collection of them was organised 
for the purpose of using their starch content as a 
substitute for maize. The King’s Lynn factory 
carried out the manufacture, and though at first the 
poor quality of the material hampered output, these 
difficulties were overcome, and the Weizmann process 
was turning out acetone from horse-chestnuts by the 
time the factory was closed in 1918. 

When our difficulties were solved through Dr. 
Weizmann’s genius, I said to him : “ You have 

rendered great service to the State, and I should like 
to ask the Prime Minister to recommend you to His 
Majesty for some honour.” He said : “ There is 

nothing I want for myself.” But is there nothing we 
can do as a recognition of your valuable assistance to 
the country ? ” I asked. He replied : “ Yes, I would 
Origin of like you to do something for my people.” 
the Balfour He then explained his aspirations as to the 
Declaration repatriation of the Jews to the sacred land 
on Palestine t hey had made famous. That was the 
fount and origin of the famous declaration about the 
National Home for Jews in Palestine. 

As soon as I became Prime Minister I talked the 
whole matter over with Mr. Balfour, who was then 
Foreign Secretary. As a scientist he was immensely 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 587 

interested when I told him of Dr. Weizmann’s 
achievement. We were anxious at that time to enlist 
Jewish support in neutral countries, notably in 
America. Dr. Weizmann was brought into direct 
contact with the Foreign Secretary. This was the 
beginning of an association, the outcome of which, 
after long examination, was the famous Balfour 
Declaration which became the charter of the Zionist 
movement. So that Dr. Weizmann with his dis- 
covery not only helped us to win the War, but made 
a permanent mark upon the map of the world. 

Dr. Weizmann is still the same busy, devoted, self- 
forgetful enthusiast. When I saw him recently he 
had just returned from a collecting trip abroad for the 
Zionist cause, in which he raised £70,000. He has 
collected something like fifteen or sixteen million 
pounds sterling for the rebuilding of Zion. It is the 
only reward he seeks, and his name will rank with 
that of Nehemiah in the fascinating and inspiring 
story of the children of Israel. 

I have paused to tell of Professor Weizmann and 
his work, because it illustrates the multiplicity of 
different personalities and interests which were blended 
into the munition effort of this country. It is, too, a 
page of world history, the opening sentences of which 
were written in the Ministry of Munitions. 

The story of our successful efforts to produce 
explosives brings me to the tale of our national filling 
factories. They really represented the most worrying 
aspect of the shell problem, for even more serious than 
the failure of the War Office arrangements for making 
shells, was their neglect to realise practically that ere 
shells were fired they must first of all be filled and 
fused. 

At the outbreak of the War, practically the whole 



588 WAR MEMOIRS 

of the gun ammunition used by both Army and 
Navy was filled or assembled at Woolwich. 
Filling confined There were five firms in the country which 
to Woolwich could fill shells. One of them had filled 
lyddite in the South African War. The 
other four had done some shell filling for foreign 
countries. But throughout the opening months of the 
war Woolwich was and remained substantially the 
only place where shell was filled. 

In May and June, 1915, the national shell factories 
had started. In July I arranged, at the conference of 
armament firms of which I have already told, for the 
erection of national projectile factories. But the 
provision for shell filling in the country was at that 
time quite inadequate to deal with the growing 
supplies of empty shell coming from these factories, 
from the trade, and from American and Canadian 
orders. Woolwich was getting choked with stacks of 
Breakdown of empty shell, while our Army was without 
Woolwich. ammunition. It was therefore essential to 
transfer to my task that Woolwich should be under 
M. of M. the control of the Ministry. Without it 
I could only manufacture shell carcases. At first the 
War Office refused to surrender the famous Ordnance 
Factory to the Ministry. They were supported in this 
refusal by the Admiralty. It soon became evident 
that I could not provide complete shells unless the 
means of filling these were transferred to my control. 
We were short of shells for the great battle which was 
being fought in France in September. We had a 
large stock of empties, but we were short of the com- 
pleted article. The only practical result of Loos was 
to transfer Woolwich to the Ministry of Munitions. 
It was the first War Office institution of whose working 
I had any experience. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 589 

Soon after I entered its mysterious portals 
I came up against a ghostly potentate known 
as “ The Extract.” What was “ The 
“ The Extract ? ” I received account of it in a 

Extract ” carefully prepared report that was pre- 
sented to me as soon as I took over 

Woolwich. 

In order to understand the procedure which governs 
the productive power of Woolwich and similarly of 
Enfield and Waltham Abbey with slight modifications, 
one must realise that the mainspring of the whole 
fabric, from a procedure point of view, is this document 
— ■“ The Extract.” “ The Extract ” is a term with an 
historical origin, which I need not enter into here, 
save to say that it was an extract from the proceedings 
of a Board of Ordnance which met at the Tower, and 
that this “ Extract ” was passed from official to official 
of equal rank who were not in a position to give orders 
to each other. An “ Extract,” however, is merely an 
order to do certain work. This phantom of “ The 
Extract ” was backed up by a frightening array of 
capital letters : M.G.O., D.D.O.S., S.O.S., D.E.O.S., 
I.R.E.S., C.S.O.F., etc., with a host of other alpha- 
betical combinations glowering in the background. 
They were entrenched in well-worn professional 
traditions behind entanglements of red tape, and all 
ready from Alpha to Omega to die in their ditch 
rather than surrender the fortress held by them and 
their official forefathers to the barbarians who 
threatened their empire from the dark forest of 
politics. 

When I took over Woolwich I soon found why, in 
the words of Monsieur Albert Thomas, it was “ une 
vieille botte .” It was due to the working of “ The 
Extract ” by the Capital Letters. They jostled each 



WAR MEMOIRS 


590 

other, they were in each other’s way, hindering but 
never husding, and only acting together when there 
was any resistance to be offered to the political Hun. 
They were an alphabetical nightmare. My first duty 
was not exacdy to lay these ghosts, but to put them in 
their proper places ; to see that each of them pushed 
his own trolley without running into anybody else’s. 
I saw why we had been delayed in divers ways. The 
men or Ministry that ordered “ The Extract ” con- 
trolled the output, and until Woolwich was transferred 
to the Ministry of Munitions and at least a few capital 
letters were on 'my side, I could not really get along 
with shell filling and components. 

The first step taken by me in the reorganisation of 
Woolwich was the promotion of Sir Frederick Donald- 
son, the head of the Arsenal, to an important post I 
created for him outside Woolwich. He was a man of 
high intelligence and great knowledge of the technique 
of his job. To this he added undoubted charm. But 
years of routine in tranquil days when time did not 
count, when shells were manufactured to fire at safe 
targets, when all that mattered was that you should 
keep the Admiralty and the War Office Sections at 
Woolwich from interfering with each other, and, 
above all, ensure that the last penny provided by the 
estimates should be judiciously expended within the 
financial year, disqualified him for an emergency 
where hours were precious to the safety of the State, 
and improvisations had to supersede routine and 
regulation. I appointed in his place Mr. Vincent 
Raven, of the London and North-Eastern 
A PP°J nt ™ ent Railway, and his quickening influence 
to Woolwich was soon iclt throughout the Arsenal and 
resulted in an increased production of 
completed shell. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


Woolwich, with the best management, could not 
provide anything like the facilities for shell filling 
demanded by the number of shells already ordered or 
about to be manufactured. I decided, therefore, to 
extend the range of national factories by setting up a 
number of national filling factories. Two 
Establishment were arranged for in July — one at Aintree 

factories and one at Coventry. Four more were 
begun in August, six more in September. 
Before the end.of the War there were eighteen national 
filling factories engaged in filling shell. Some of 
them were directly controlled by the Ministry ; 
some by agents, like the national projectile factories ; 
some by Local Boards of Management, like the shell 
factories, the members serving without fee or reward. 

The chief technical difficulties in connection with 
the carrying through of successful filling operations 
were not those of skilled labour. The actual filling 
was a simple process, and the great bulk of the labour 
in the filling factories was that of unskilled women 
workers. Such labour difficulties as arose were 
associated rather with the danger of the 
Dangers of work, such as the scare of T.N.T. poison- 
filling work ing which towards the end of 1916 
temporarily depleted the staffs ; the 
difficulty of getting workers to observe the regulations 
for minimising risk of explosions ; the repellent 
character of some of the precautions which had to be 
adopted, such as the wearing of respirators when 
handling fulminate of mercury compounds, or the 
smearing of the face with special grease if engaged 
with work on tetryl. 

The courage of the girls and women engaged in 
these factories has never been sufficiently recognised. 
They had to work under conditions of very real 



WAR MEMOIRS 


592 

danger to life and limb ; and what some of them 
probably dreaded still more, of grotesque disfigurement 
Courage of — f° r one of the perils which was associated 
■women with the shell-filling factories was toxic 

workers : toxic jaundice resulting from T.N.T. poisoning. 
jaundice This ailment turned their faces a bright 
and repulsive yellow. The poor girls for this reason 
were nicknamed by their associates outside as 
“ canaries.” They were quite proud of this 
designation, for they had earned it in the path of duty. 

Plutarch relates that at the battle of Pharsalus, 
Julius Caesar told his legionaries to thrust their spears 
at the faces of Pompey’s cavalry — patrician exquisites 
of Rome ; and that these young gallants, who would 
have been brave enough in facing bodily wounds and 
death, were so terrified of facial disfigurement that 
they turned in horror and galloped away, holding their 
hands before their eyes. For girls and women, whose 
natural instinct it was to prize their looks and com- 
plexion, the blotching ugliness of T.N.T. poisoning 
was perhaps a peril which tested their courage even 
more than the risk of explosion. In 1916 there were 
181 cases of this toxic jaundice, of which 52 ended 
fatally, and in 1 9 1 7 there were 1 89 cases with 44 deaths. 
But in the course of that year the methods of prevent- 
ing it were being rigidly perfected, and by 1918 the 
figures were brought down to 34 cases, of which 10 
ended fatally. Despite the number so stricken, and 
the scare which found expression in the Press, there 
was no labour shortage at the filling factories. 

Another fine story of courage comes from the 
factory at Hayes, where girls and women were em- 
ployed to fill gaines. A game, it should be explained, 
is a tube filled with explosive, attached under the nose- 
cap of a high-explosive shell, and sticking down into 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 593 

the T.N.T. filling. Its purpose is to ensure that 
the detonation of the fuse in the nose-cap shall 
effectively detonate the contents of the shell. 
Hayes In 1 9 15 the frequency of prematures 

explosion and blinds led to the discovery that 
a large stock of gaines sent from America 
had a left-hand instead of a right-hand screw, and 
tended to come unscrewed in the shell as it rotated 
in flight. To prevent this, the screwed-in gaines had 
to be stabbed in two places with cold chisel and 
hammer to break the thread so that they could not 
unscrew. 

Women workers in the factory at Hayes undertook 
a large part of this work — risky work, for if a trace of 
the fulminate were ignited by the blow, the gaine 
would explode and disembowel them. One morning 
news came that there had been a terrible explosion at 
Hayes, in which several women had been killed. My 
representative went down to visit the scene. Work 
was being done in a number of little huts, separated 
off from each other. One of them was badly shattered. 
At its entrance Lord Lee ran against a busy little 
woman, about five feet high, white-faced but resolute. 
“ Is this where the explosion took place ? ” he asked. 
“ Yes,” she answered. She was in charge of the hut, 
and when he entered it he saw bloodstains on the floor, 
and the survivors carrying on at full speed, with 
hammer and cold chisei, stabbing gaines. 

Lord Lee spoke with the little forewoman. She had 
at one time been a lady’s maid. Now she was doing 
her bit for the country in the munition factory, and 
when the explosion had occurred that morning she 
had calmed and steadied her girls and headed them 
back to their grim and dangerous task. All she 
would say was : “I am not going to run away, 



WAR MEMOIRS 


594 

especially when I think of those poor boys in France 
who are facing more dangers than we are here.” 

Before long a safety device was produced to guard 
workers against the dangers of explosion when stabbing 
gaines ; and later on the introduction of an improved 
pattern made such stabbing unnecessary. But till 
that time the girls and women carried on their risky 
work in the pluckiest fashion, and if one of them was 
blown to horrible destruction the others would keep 
up their spirits by singing at their work — singing 
songs with words of their own composition, which had 
little perhaps of literary grace, but plenty of crude 
vigour and unfaltering courage. 

That was the kind of spirit shown by our women 
munition workers. Granted efficient direction, there 
was nothing it could not accomplish. 

The experiences I have narrated in regard to our 
dealings with Woolwich Arsenal, and the facts set out 
in Lord Moulton’s letter, give some slight hint of the 
official obstacles which continually interfered with 
our progress. It has to be borne in mind that we 
were not carrying on a smooth-running concern, 
but building from the ground up a vast new range of 
industries for the production of articles — many of 
Prowess of them never before manufactured in this 
research in country. We had to find out how to 
problem of make the best use of whatever materials 
shell filling were available, and this meant that it 
was impossible to rest content with standard specifica- 
tions for ingredients, and standard processes of 
manufacture, however ideal these might be for the 
leisurely and limited munition production of peace- 
time. 

At the beginning of the War, for example, lyddite 
was our only high explosive for shell filling. That was 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 595 

all very well when a few tons would satisfy our needs 
for months, but not when we wanted to fire off 
hundreds of tons a day ; for besides being expensive, 
lyddite was a substance for the manufacture of which 
imported materials were needed. Hence the adoption 
of T.N.T. But again, T.N.T. was costly and limited 
in amount, and as the demand for high-explosive 
shells grew it became obvious that the supply of pure 
T.N.T. would be nothing like adequate. Hence the 
development of the amatol mixtures of T.N.T. and 
ammonium nitrate. But the approved method of 
filling a shell with T.N.T. was to melt the explosive 
and pour it in through the opening at the nose where 
the fuse would eventually be screwed on. When 
ammonium nitrate was mixed with the hot melted 
T.N.T. — like sand mixed into treacle — the mixture 
poured more and more stiffly, and with more than 
40 per cent, of the nitrate it would not pour at all. 
So some way had to be found of mixing the two 
ingredients dry, and filling shells with the powder, if 
the maximum economy in the use of T.N.T. was to 
be observed. 

For solving this problem fertile and original minds 
were needed. Britain is rich in such, and one of my 
most interesting tasks at the Ministry of Munitions 
was to get hold of men of real inventive and adminis- 
trative ability and harness their capacities to the 
service of our immense task. Often they were men 
with a holy terror of red tape and official formalities, 
who would not readily submit to dictation, but if 
given their head would do work of the very greatest 
value. They had to be chosen with discrimination so 
as to separate the men of practical, if somewhat 
intractable, genius from the mere inventing cranks. 

To help us with the problem of shell filling, I had 


vol. n 



596 WAR MEMOIRS 

the good fortune to secure the services of Lord 
Chetwynd, who was recommended to me 
Wmk of Lord by Mr. Ellis as the best man to help us in 
Chetwynd our difficulty. He had, as far as I re- 
member, no practical experience in dealing 
with explosives, but he had a tremendous store of 
resource and ingenuity. I was, however, warned that 
he was very sensitive to any attempt to control him 
by a bridle of red tape. 

We told him he was wanted to build and run a 
factory that would fill a thousand tons a week of high 
explosive into shells. He stipulated for and got a 
very free hand, without control by the departmental 
managers of the Ministry, and a contract valid till 
after the cessation of hostilities. 

Thus equipped, he went straight ahead in glorious 
independence. He found a site at Chilwell, near 
Nottingham, and designed and built his 
Chilwell own factory there. While it was being 
factory set up erected he went over to France in October, 
1915, as one of a deputation I sent to 
study the French methods of shell-filling, and satisfied 
himself that the French practice of filling powdered 
explosives, by pressing it in through the nose of the 
shell, could be adapted for amatol. This was 
important, for to make our supplies of T.N.T. go as 
far as possible it was desirable to use it with 80 per 
cent, of ammonium nitrate, which involved filling 
dry, as such mixture could not be poured. At 
Woolwich they had designed a process for filling with 
this 80 : 20 amatol by compressing the powder 
into cakes and insetting these in the shell. But that 
meant either having a detachable bottom for the shell 
or a detachable tapered end, and both these devices 
proved in practice not only an additional complica- 







MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 597 

tion and delay, but unsatisfactory and a cause of 
premature explosion. 

Lord Chetwynd went back to Chilwell and deter- 
mined to fill 80 : 20 powder by pressing through the 
nose. He hastily designed and ran up a small experi- 
mental plant to show it could be done, and when 
there was a talk of abandoning the 80 : 20 amatol on 
account of the unsatisfactory results achieved by the 
Woolwich shells, he challenged a test of those filled by 
him by pressing through the nose — a test from which 
they emerged triumphantly. His initiative in this 
matter was of incalculable benefit to the country, and 
made possible an immense increase in both the speed 
and the volume of shell-filling. The Chilwell factory 
was an amazing place, where powerful 
Original explosives were milled and mixed like so 
Chilwell much flour. Lord Chetwynd designed 
his own plant and processes, aiming 
always at speed, simplicity, and the fullest use of 
machinery on mass-production lines. He passed his 
raw material through machines originally used for 
coal crushing, stone pulverising, sugar-drying, paint- 
making, sugar-sifting. The T.N.T. he ground between 
the porcelain rollers of a flour mill. A bread-making 
plant did the mixing. He bought up derelict works 
that had been producing lace-making machinery and 
used them to manufacture the appliances he designed 
for filling shells. People objected that it must be 
highly dangerous to treat high explosives so uncere- 
moniously. Lord Chetwynd’s retort was to move to a 
house at the end of his press-houses. “ If anyone is 
to be blown up, I’ll be the first ! ” he remarked : and 
his action greatly encouraged his workers. A Zeppelin 
hunted up and down the Trent all through a January 
night in 1916 trying to locate and bomb the factory, 



WAR MEMOIRS 


598 

but without success. A rumour spread next day in 
true war-time fashion that Lord Chetwynd had caught 
three German spies trying to signal the Zeppelin with 
lights, and had shot them out of hand. He was prompt 
to turn it to account, so he set a policeman as sentry 
all day over an empty room, and at night made a 
labourer dig three graves on the hillside. Into these 
he put stones and filled them in, with a black post at 
the head of each. That turned the rumour into un- 
questioned history, and discouraged would-be spies and 
the unwanted curious from prying round the place. 

I have given these notes about Chilwell because they 
will convey some idea of the difficulties with which 
we were faced in our task of producing filled shell ; 
and some idea, too, of the men who came to our aid. 
Besides, Chilwell was the largest of our national 
filling factories, and was our principal source of 
supply for the heavier natures of filled shell. Of the 
high-explosive shell filled during the War in the 
national factories, of sizes from 6o-pounder to 1 5-inch, 
over 50 per cent, were filled at Chilwell, which turned 
out 19J million of these heavy shells, in addition 
to a considerable number of lighter shells, aerial 
bombs, etc. 

Chilwell started shell-filling in January, 1916. 
Some of the national filling factories had begun 
filling of components — gaines, fuses, etc. — 
Tribute to even before this. I had placed Geddes in 
Geddes charge of the whole filling section at the 
end of 1915, and such were his energy and 
resource that by the middle of 1916 the new filling 
factories had got into their stride and were furnishing 
the Army with complete ammunition on a scale which 
made possible the terrific bombardments of the 
Somme offensive. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


599 


4. MACHINE-GUNS 

During 1914 and the first half of 1915, responsibility 
for the design and supply of machine-guns rested 
with the Master-General of Ordnance 
Machine-gun the War Office. How completely 
S year ’ofWar military direction failed to appreciate 

the important part this arm would play in 
the War is shown by the fact that between August, 19 14, 
and June, 1915, four contracts only were placed by 
them with Messrs. Vickers for a total of 1,792 machine- 
guns. This would work out at two machine-guns per 
battalion, with none left for training at home as 
provision for machine-gun companies and no margin 
for losses or breakages.* The first order was dated 
nth August, 1914, and was for 192 guns. The 
second, on 10th September, was for 100. The third, 
dated 19th September, was for 1,000, and the fourth, 
a few days later, for another 500. A provision in 
the third contract laid it down that the rate of 
delivery should be 50 guns per week. Only 10 to 12 
had been the rate specified under the first order. 
The whole 1,792 guns were to be delivered by June, 
1915. In fact, however, only 1,022 had been 
received by that date. 

At the outbreak of the War the allotment of machine- 
guns to each battalion was only two. This was 
the equipment of our first Expeditionary Force. An 
explanation of the failure of the military authorities 
to realise the importance of this weapon is to be sought 
in the fact that as one distinguished officer wrote : 
“ The machine-gun was regarded by British 

* In 1918 our equipment of machine-guns was 36 Lewis guns per 
infantry battalion and 64 Vickers guns per machine-gun battalion. Defici- 
encies were replaced immediately from reserves at home. 



6oo 


WAR MEMOIRS 


authorities as a weapon of opportunity rather than an 
essential munition of war.” 

It took our generals many months of terrible loss to 
realise the worth of the machine-gun. They were 
converted by representations from officers who had 
witnessed its deadly effect in action. The farther they 
were from the fighting line the less impressed were 
military commanders with the power and peril of the 
machine-gun. Brigadier-General Baker-Carr, the 
General Bakei- founder of the Machine-Gun Training 
Can's account Corps, has given in his recent book* a 
of military piquant account of the difficulties he 
indifference experienced in establishing his training 
school and in convincing the higher command of the 
importance of the machine-gun. As it bears upon the 
attitude of the War Office in reference to the manu- 
facture of this devastating weapon, I may be permitted 
to quote one or two passages. 

This is the attitude before the War : — 

“ At that time, the sole mention of machine-guns 
was confined to a dozen lines in the ‘ Infantry 
Training Manual.’ Nobody in authority concerned 
himself with this weapon of enormous potential 
importance, and battalion commanders before the 
War frankly and cordially disliked it. 

‘ What shall I do with the machine-guns to-day, 
sir ? ’ would be a question frequently asked by the 
officer in charge on a field day. 

‘ Take the damned things to a flank and hide 
’em ! ’ was the usual reply.” 

In 1915 he was urging an increase in the number 
of machine-guns : — 


* “ From Chauffeur to Brigadier.” 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 6oi 

“ The fighting line, at any rate, had awakened to 
the realisation of the automatic weapon and many 
commanders were showing themselves eager to 
learn anything they could, which would help to 
strengthen their front without increasing the number 
of men. 

Already I was urging the advisability of doubling 
the number of machine-guns per battalion, i.e. 
raising it from two to four. I had put forward the 
suggestion very tentatively to G.H.Q,. and had been 
promptly told to mind my own business. The 
commanders of larger units, such as armies and 
army corps, did not at that time appreciate the vast 
saving of man-power that could be effected by the 
substitution of machinery for brawn, and it was 
only when we got within the danger zone that the 
proposals drew forth a cordial response.” 

He states that after having met with very little 
encouragement he set up his machine-gun school 
behind the lines. 

“ Not one single member of the Staff of G.H.Q,ever 
took the trouble to pay a visit to the School during 
the six months that it was quartered in the Artillery 
Barracks, a quarter of a mile distant from the 
General Staff Office.” 

He talks about the enormous fire power of the 
German machine-gun and the faith of the German 
Army in its potency both in attack and defence, and 
he adds : — 

“ Although this fact was flagrantly and terribly 
patent to the soldier in the front line, who was called 
upon to face the enemy machine-guns, the High 



WAR MEMOIRS 


602 

Command was unable to realise the crucial import- 
ance of it, even after the Battle of the Somme, 
and it was only in the following year, during the 
ghastly and bloody fiasco known as the Third 
Battle of Ypres, that the full truth was forced upon 
them.” 

At last, after great pressure from the fighting line, 
sanction was given to increase the number of machine- 
guns per battalion from two to four. This was in the 
summer of 1915. He then says : — 

“ Within twenty-four hours of hearing the news 
I put forward a proposal to double this amended 
establishment. G.H.Q,. was horrified. 

‘ Look here, Baker,’ I was told indignantly, 
£ We’ve given you two extra guns per battalion. 
You ought to be satisfied.’ 

Vainly I pointed out that the additional guns 
were not a personal present to me, but a badly 
needed increase in the arrangement of the fighting 
troops. But it was useless to argue.” 

It is an incredible story for anyone who had no 
actual experience of the fanatical hostility displayed 
by the Higher Commands to any new ideas. 

Despite the meagre output for our own Army, 
plant was laid down in this country in October, 1914, 
to provide 50 guns a week for the French 
Supplies for Government, subject to the proviso that 

the Fiench the output for the British Forces should 
not thereby be delayed. When the 
Ministry of Munitions was established, it was dis- 
covered that negotiations were actually taking place 
for the payment of £50 premium upon each gun 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 603 

delivered in excess of an average of 50 per week up to 
the end of December, 1915. 

The Vickers gun had been adopted to replace the 
Maxim, which was obsolescent at the outbreak of the 
War. Maxims already in service were 
Maxim retained ; but the total output of these 
superseded guns from the Royal Small Arms Factory, 
Enfield, during the first two or three 
years of the War amounted to only 666 guns, and 
production of them ceased entirely in March, 1 9 1 7, in 
accordance with the policy, already settled before the 
War, of abandoning this weapon for land service. 

The growing importance of machine-guns became 
more and more manifest as reports came in from 
battle after battle describing the appalling casualties 
inflicted upon our men by this deadly little mechanism. 
The Germans were the only nation which had realised 
before the War the potentialities of the machine-gun, 
and they were arming their troops with 16 per 
battalion. 

But this estimate of the value of the machine-gun 
was not shared in the War Office. The echo of its 
devastating racket had not yet penetrated that tranquil 
sanctuary of the God of War. 

The manufacture of machine-guns raised the very 
important issue of priority as between rifles and 
machine-guns, of both of which there was a serious 
immediate shortage ; for the manufacture of both these 
weapons called for the same raw materials, the same 
machinery, and the same class of workmen. Geddes, 
whom I had placed in charge of the output of 
both machine-guns and rifles, found it impossible to 
get from the War Office any satisfactory estimate 
either of the numbers of each that would be required, 
or of the relative priority to be given to their 



WAR MEMOIRS 


604 

production. Eventually he went, with Sir Percy 
Rifles or Girouard, his immediate superior, to lay 
machine-guns : the matter before the Secretary for War 
G seesLord himself, so as to obtain a ruling for the 
Kitchener guidance of manufacture during the next 
nine months. The report of that interview is perhaps 
best told in Geddes’ own words : — 

“ I told Kitchener that rifles and machine-guns 
were the same as shillings and pounds : that 
nine rifles were equal to a Lewis automatic gun 
and 13 rifles to a Vickers machine-gun in the 
productive effort required for their manufacture. 
I wanted to know the proportions of each wanted 
for nine months ahead so that I could make my 
plans. His reply was, ‘ Do you think I am God 
Almighty that I can tell you what is wanted nine 
months ahead ? ’ I replied, ‘ No, sir ! And I do 
not think that I am either. But we have to work 
it out between us and try to get it right.’ Then he 
gave me the old War Office answer, ‘ I want as 
much of both as you can produce.’ 

My patience was wearing thin, and I think I 
spoke fairly definitely. I told him of the weeks I 
had spent trying to get these very elementary facts 
out of his subordinates. Eventually he said that 
the proportion was to be two machine-guns per 
battalion as a minimum, four as a maximum, and 
anything above four was a luxury. That was the 
opinion of the Secretary of State, who was looked 
upon generally as our greatest soldier, on 26th 
July, 1915. 

I sat down in the War Office and wrote this 
down. So elated was I at my success in having at 
last got something upon which I could work that 




Acu* 

(fUirt . 






Facsimile of a memorandum, drafted by Sir Jiric Gcddcs and 
initialled by Lord Kitchener, dealing with the supply oi 
machine guns to the Armies. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 605 

I spelt ‘ luxury ’ wrong. I asked Kitchener to sign 
it. He always had a reluctance to sign documents 
and said that he gave orders and expected them to 
be obeyed. I replied that doubtless that was the 
military way, but I had been brought up to accept 
a signature as an authority for money I spent, and 
unless he would sign it, the document was no good 
to me. He walked out of the room. 
A chit Girouard caught him in the doorway and 

signed. said, ‘ Geddes is like that : he won’t act 

unless you sign a paper.’ So Kitchener 
came back and initialled the document.” 

Elated at his success in getting this documentary 
statement from the War Secretary, Geddes brought it 
to me. As Minister of Munitions I was officially 
expected only to fulfil the requirements of the War 
Office, and was not authorised to go beyond them. 
But I had made enquiries of my own amongst the 
fighting soldiers who had been in action and they 
were all in agreement as to the need for more and more 
machine-guns, so that, when I read this miserable 
estimate, I was so indignant that I should have torn it 
up if Geddes had not rescued it from me. He treasures 
it still. 

Geddes reports that I said to him : “ Take Kitch- 
ener’s maximum (four per battalion) ; square it ; 

multiply that result by two ; and when 
My revision y OU are } n sight of that, double it again 

fstimaU for § ood luck 

This calculation gave 32 machine-guns 

per battalion with another 32 for a margin. That of 
course meant not that each battalion should take 64 
machine-guns into action, but that manufacture 
should be on that scale to provide for all contingencies. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


608 

the nine weeks ended 12 th June, deliveries to the 
War Office averaged only 36 per week. 

When the Ministry assumed control I had the 
position investigated, and found that any effective 
increase in output was dependent upon the placing 
of larger orders, which would justify the Birmingham 
Small Arms Company and the manufacturers in 
making a considerable extension of their plant. It also 
depended on arrangements being made to increase 
the output of the necessary machine tools and gauges 
for manufacture. Hitherto the War Office and the 
Admiralty between them had given contracts for 
under 2,000 Lewis guns — just enough to keep the 
firm from accepting foreign orders. So an order was 
placed with them for 10,000 machine-guns to be 
delivered before the end of May, 1916, and while 
this contract was running I negotiated a further 
agreement with them whereby the output was to be 
extended to 750 guns weekly, with a running contract 
for this number for the duration of the War. In 
May, 1917, arrangements were made for this to be 
increased to 1 ,800 a week. 

In February, 1915, plant and skilled workmen had 
been brought over to Coventry from France for the 
manufacture of Hotchkiss guns, and a 
Development factory started, from which the Admiralty 

Hotchkiss tun ordered 1,000 of these machine-guns. The 
anticipated output of the factory was 
25 to 50 guns a week. 

On 13th August, 1915, I decided to sanction a 
scheme for doubling the output of this factory, 
although the British military authorities did not then 
accept this type of gun for service use. Accordingly, 
in September, 1915, the Ministry placed an order for 
3,000 machine-guns, and by the beginning of June, 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 609 

1916, the factory had delivered 1,013. Its output 
rose to 690 guns a month by the end of October, 1916. 
The ultimate importance of this weapon, especially 
for the armament of the tanks, is of course familiar 
history. 

It would be a mistake to suppose that these immense 
expansions of the supply of machine-guns were carried 
through with a reckless disregard for expense. Output 
was of course the chief concern, since the lives of our 
soldiers were in the balance. But cost was carefully 
studied. For example, the orders placed 
Reductions in by the War Office with Messrs. Vickers 
the cost in August and September, 1914, ranged 

from £167 to £162 per gun. The 
price fixed by the Ministry of Munitions in July, 
1915, was £125 per gun. In 1916, it was reduced 
to £100. In 1918 it was still further brought down to 
=£ 74 - 

Our progress in the task of supplying our 
forces with machine-guns may be summarised as 
follows : — 

At the outbreak of the War, if we ignore 
the obsolescent Maxim, of which a few were 
still being turned out at the Royal Small Arms 
Factory at Enfield (which produced just over 80 
of them during the first 18 months of the War), the 
only supply of machine-guns was the 10 to 12 a 
week which were the maximum that Vickers could 
then turn out. 

By the end of May, 1915, the total machine-guns 
delivered to the War Office since August, 1914, were 
1,039 — 775 Vickers and 264 Lewis ; and 
Summary of the total number in service, including 
achievements Maxims, was 1,330. Guns so far ordered 
numbered 2,305. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


610 

How the output of machine-guns rose thereafter 
is shown by the following little table : — 


Tear. 

1914 

i9 r 5 

191:6 

1917 

1918 


Total output. 

287 

6,102 

• • 33 , 5°7 

79,746 
. . 120,864 


Total 240,506 

Out of this total of 240,506 machine-guns which 
were manufactured in this country during the War 
we supplied 26,900 to our Allies, or twenty times as 
many as our whole stock at the time the Ministry of 
Munitions was formed. 


5. MACHINE GUN CORPS 

It was my duty as Minister of Munitions to furnish 
the machine-guns required by the Army — and, as I 
have related, I went at one time considerably in 
advance of their official requirements in the 
direction of an intelligent anticipation of the 
numbers of guns they would presently find it necessary 
to apply for. 

Officially, it was perhaps hardly a part of my duty 
to ensure that the best use was being made of the 
large supply of machine-guns, but obviously this 
was a matter in which I could not fail to be keenly 
interested. In October, some three months after 
the question of the number of guns to be provided 
had been settled by me and when their production 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 6ll 

was getting into its stride, the project of forming a 
special Machine Gun Corps received the 
The corps Royal Assent. * This was a plan which I 
authorised strongly supported. I had been informed 
of the very effective methods employed 
by the enemy to get the best results from this weapon 
— methods involving the use of special machine-gun 
companies, not permanently attached or allotted to 
any battalion or division. 

But I was greatly alarmed to hear, shortly after- 
wards, that although this Machine Gun Corps had 
been authorised, little was being done to make it a 
reality, and hardly any men were being brought into 
Wa> Office training for it, out of the millions of men 
neglects to that had been recruited. Orders had, 
develop the i n fact, been issued that no man should 
cor P s be recruited for it or transferred to it from 

other units. By this date my capacity for amazement 
at professional repugnance to new ideas or formations 
had reached saturation point. The estimated 
deliveries of machine-guns would by March, 1916, 
reach a cumulative total of more than 10,000, and 
by midsummer of over 20,000. No doubt there were 
many other demands for men being made upon the 
War Office, but the machine-gun was obviously such 
a formidable factor in defence and attack that only 
some curious form of unbelief and opposition could 
be responsible for this, to my mind, otherwise in- 
explicable and unintelligent failure to train men 
especially to make the best use of it. I determined, 
therefore, at the risk of once again interfering in 
something which was not departmentally my concern, 
to ascertain the exact position. 


* Royal Warrant. Army Order No. 416 of 22nd October, 1915. 
VOL. II F 



WAR MEMOIRS 


6l2 


In the War Committee of 13th November, 1915, 
I took up this matter. I laid before the Committee 
a memorandum setting out the estimated 
My memor- deliveries of machine-guns, and urging 
andum of adequate preparation for the effective 

13 J use of this weapon. The memorandum 


continued : — 


“ I believe that one machine-gun, with its 
detachment of ten men, is at a very low estimate 
equivalent in destructive power to fifty riflemen, 
especially on the defensive. If that is a correct basis 
of comparison we could make up for our shortage 
in men and obtain equivalent fighting value by 
training 200 machine-gunners instead of 1,000 
riflemen. In other words, with 50,000 machine- 
gunners we could do the work of 250,000 infantry. 
We could also save in rifles, in which, so far as I 
can see, the Allies are never going to obtain the 
numerical superiority over the Germans necessary 
for a decisive victory. 

It seems also, that if our machine-guns are 
employed on a large scale, on a comprehensive 
plan, they will, in conjunction with barbed wire 
and fortification, give us the strategic power so far 
enjoyed by the Germans alone of taking large numbers 
of troops away from one front, where no offensive 
is in contemplation, and transferring them to a 
quarter where active operations arc intended. 

This is what the Germans have done on the 
Western Front, to release men for the thrust against 
Russia, and what they are doing on their Eastern 
Front, to set free men for attacking Serbia, and for 
action on the Western Front. This power to 
replace men, which amounts to strategic elasticity, 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 613 

applies especially, I think, to our present intentions 

on the Western Front.” 

General Sir Archibald Murray, who was then acting 
as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, under Lord 
Support of Kitchener (at the time away in the 
General Mediterranean), was present at the War 
Sir Archibald Committee, and supported my view. He 
Murray said that the General Staff had actually 
started a machine-gun school at Grantham, intended 
to train a corps of men in machine-gun handling and 
tactics ; but the Adjutant-General would not supply 
them with any men. They wished to train 10,000 
men at a time, taking in a fresh supply every two 
months, but so far had only had 3,000 men. He 
confirmed my estimate that one machine-gun was 
equal to fifty rifles, and contradicted Mr. M'Kenna’s 
suggestion that mobility was lost with machine-guns. 

As a result of my pressure, the War Council decided 
to ask the Army Council to provide for 10,000 men 
to be put continuously under instruction. Actually 
some considerable delay occurred before this 
instruction was carried out, but eventually a number 
of men were drafted from various units to the Corps 
Training Centre, and even then they were not 
especially picked men like the German machine- 
gunners, whom Sir Douglas Haig has described as a 
corps d’ elite. None the less, they added immensely 
to the efficiency of our army. Four years 
Value of the later, in November, 1918, the strength 
new force Q f this new branch of the Army which 

had been initiated under such difficulties 
amounted to 6,427 officers and 123,835 other ranks. 

When one recalls the devastating use made by the 
Germans of their picked machine-gunners both in 



WAR MEMOIRS 


614 

attack and defence, and how they saved their own 
infantry by that process, one is astounded at the 
tardiness with which our military leaders came to 
any realisation of the power of the most lethal weapon 
of the War. 

6. DESIGN AND INVENTION 

In this War the engineer and the chemist dominated 
the battlefield. When war broke out the Central 
Decisive Powers were much better prepared than 
importance of the Allies on the mechanical and chemical 
mechanical side in this respect. The great howitzers 
warfare 0 f t k e Germans played a decisive part in 
the opening conflicts of the War. Even in 1916 the 
French artillery was inferior in this type of weapon. 
We had practically nothing that counted in trench 
warfare until late in 1915. The Teutonic heavy guns 
(German and Austrian) smashed the concrete 
fortifications of Liege, compelling in a few hours the 
surrender of defences which we reckoned would hold 
out for days if not weeks. The Germans who captured 
Antwerp were in numbers but a third of the garrison, 
and in quality they were the second best of the 
German troops. Big guns did the work for them. 
The German 5.9 shell with its terrifying explosion 
stopped the French advance, and hurled their armies 
back towards Paris. Whilst the German engineers 
in their workshops gave their comrades superior 
weapons for attack, their field engineers constructed 
for them the best defences. Deep and skilfully 
constructed entrenchments protected by wire and 
defended with machine-guns, Minenwerfer , and 
grenades defied the repeated efforts of the Allies to 
push the German invaders back out of France and 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


Belgium. Their use of poison gas broke the French 
and British fronts at Ypres in 1915, and helped to 
scatter the Russians in Poland. 

On their Eastern Front the Germans could defeat 
and hurl back Russian armies thrice as strong 
numerically, but destitute of the guns. 
Machines more shells, mortars and gases which the 
man-power Central Powers possessed. Human valour 
is no shield against high explosives or 
machine-gun bullets. As deadlock gripped the battle 
front it became increasingly clear that if Allied 
strategy declined to seek a back-door, the only hope 
of gaining a decisive victory was to produce some 
new contrivance or improvement in our weapons 
which might turn the balance. And even a back- 
door, if barred, needs smashing in. 

It soon became evident to clear eyes and gradually 
to the most obtuse vision that the War would be 
fought and ultimately decided in the workshop and 
the laboratory. 

Unhappily, at the outbreak of the War and all 
through its opening months we were definitely behind- 
q ut hand in the field of munition design. 

unprepai edness Our artillery had not been tested in a 
at the outbreak great war. Our little stage manoeuvres 
°f War taught us nothing as to what real war 
would be like. Our heavy artillery was a joke to 
our foes. We had no trench mortars or grenades. 
We had vested our confidence so much in shrapnel 
that we had not worked out a safe high-explosive 
shell. When we started manufacturing high-explosive 
shells we had not thought out the problem of how we 
were to produce a sufficient quantity of explosive for 
so stupendous a demand, nor had we invented a 
competent fuse to explode such shells as we were able 



WAR MEMOIRS 


616 

to fill. Our only modern big gun was the solitary 
experimental 9.2 inch, which was sent out to the front 
in September, 1914, and which was nicknamed 
“ Mother ” by the troops. Our machine-guns were 
few in number, and many of them obsolescent in 
design. The War Office had refused to consider the 
Lewis gun for land service. We had no trench 
mortars and no reliable hand grenades. The enemy 
had both. 

Research and design for munitions of war were 
under the control of the Master-General of 
War Office Ordnance. During the opening months 
reluctance to of the War, he held that, as it would 
adopt new soon be over, it would be foolish to 
weapons divert to the lengthy and tedious process 

of working out and approving designs for new 
weapons the energy which could be better used for 
producing existing standard types. Thus, when early 
on in the War a request came from the Front that 
specimens of captured German Minenwerfer should be 
examined with a view to providing the Army with 
trench-mortars, the proposal was postponed on the 
ground that other demands on the capacity of the 
Ordnance Factory and armament firms were more 
immediate. 

But as the War progressed the military authorities 
were compelled to face ever multiplying problems of 
new designs and types of munition which were 
required by the army in the field. They had also 
to arrange for the immense growth of output of all 
supplies, new or old, and this threw a 
Woolwich great deal of extra work on the drawing 
il^rhntrefijh office at Woolwich. It was inevitable 
that it should become thoroughly con- 
gested and hopelessly in arrears. The Admiralty, 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


which also relied on Woolwich for the same class of 
work, became so impatient that in May, 1915, it 
established its own drawing-office at headquarters, 
and gradually developed it to include simple 
designing. 

Britain is very rich in scientific and inventive ability, 
and in November, 1914, the General War Committee 
The Royal °f the Royal Society was appointed to 
Society appoints “ organise assistance to the Government 
an investigation £ n conducting or suggesting scientific 
committee investigation in relation to the War, the 
Committee to have power to add to their number and 
to appoint Sub-Committees not necessarily restricted 
to Fellows of the Society.” By this step the Govern- 
ment mobilised the most distinguished body of 
scientists in the world to assist the nation. The 
Admiralty made considerable use of this body, and 
referred to it such inventions and suggestions sent in 
as seemed to hold out some promise of being useful. 
But the procedure of the War Department remained 
practically unaltered. Apart from some slight co- 
operation with the Chemical Sub-Committee which 
had been set up by the Royal Society, little use was 
made of the War Committee of the Society for 
military purposes. 

When the Ministry of Munitions was first set up, 
the Army Council retained responsibility for the kind 
Divided and quality of the stores we were to 
responsibility SU ppiy . The fixing of designs and specifica- 

Office^and ^ tions and the tests to be applied, the 
Ministry research and experimental work in con- 
nection with munitions, were still under the War 
Office, and though the Ministry of Munitions was 
responsible for providing guns, ammunition, rifles, 
and other munitions, it was entirely dependent upon 



WAR MEMOIRS 


618 

the War Office authorities for decision and investiga- 
tion in respect of the patterns, ingredients, and 
specifications of these stores. 

I soon discovered that the separation of design and 
manufacture was a serious mistake and led to blunders 
Action of an< i delays. It was not improved by 
G.H.Qs and the reactionary attitude of the War Office. 
Admiralty to Our soldiers in the battle line were more 
promote design p ro g ress i V e. Sir John French set up, early 
in June, 1915, an Experimental Committee at G.H.Q. 
to deal with inventions and the application of modern 
science to the needs of war. At home there was a 
popular demand for a similar organisation to serve 
the needs of both the Army and the Navy, and on 
22nd June, 1915, Mr. Balfour, who was then First 
Lord of the Admiralty, definitely formulated a 
scheme for this purpose. The War Office held aloof, 
and in July the Admiralty set up an Admiralty Board 
of Inventions and Research to serve the needs of the 
Senior Service alone. A similar organisation was 
shortly afterwards established by me for the Ministry 
of Munitions. 

A very short experience convinced me that the 
unnatural divorce of design and production was quite 
unworkable. In particular, I felt it important that 
the Ministry of Munitions should be able to examine 
new suggestions and inventions of possible value — a 
view confirmed by the history of the Stokes gun — 
and I proceeded to press for the transfer to the 
Ministry of the authority at least to deal with such 
new ideas and designs. 

The history of the Stokes gun affords an illustration 
of the impracticability of the dual system. The Army 
were clamouring for a mortar that would enable them 
to reply to the bombing appliances with which 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 619 

the Germans harried our trenches. As early as 
January, 1915, Mr. Wilfred Stokes, an East of 
England manufacturer of agricultural 
The Stokes machinery, had submitted to the War 
gun Office a design for a trench mortar of 

extreme simplicity — a plain steel tube, into 
which a bomb could be dropped with a cartridge 
fitted to its base, which would explode on hitting a 
striker at the base of the tube, and propel the bomb 
into the enemy trench. You could fire the gun as 
rapidly as you could drop bombs into it. 

The War Office did not approve the type of fuse 
fitted to the bomb, and turned down the invention. 
It was brought forward again in March, and again 
rejected. 

Hearing favourable reports of this gun, I arranged 
to see it for myself, and on 30th June I witnessed it 
in action in a demonstration at Wormwood Scrubs. 
I was accompanied by Major-General Ivor Philipps, 
the Military Secretary to the new Ministry. Both 
of us were very impressed with its performance. It 
struck me as having great possibilities. 

Officially I was limited at this time in the Ministry 
to the manufacture of those stores which the War 
Office approved. It was impossible to pretend that 
it had passed the design for the Stokes gun — on the 
contrary, it had twice rejected it. 

Happily I had received just before this a donation 
of £20,000 from one of the Indian Maharajahs, to 
be expended by me on whatever war purpose seemed 
to me most useful for the Empire. On the strength 
of this fund, and in spite of my knowledge that the 
War Office was opposed to using the Stokes gun, I 
gave instructions for 1,000 of them to be made forth- 
with, together with 100,000 bombs — these last not 



WAR MEMOIRS 


620 

to be completed till a satisfactory fuse had been 
prepared for them. Meantime I set about reope ning 
the issue with the War Office. 

By the second week of August they had been 
brought to the point of carrying out a further test 
of the mortar at Shoeburyness. By this time a fuse 
had been fitted to the bombs, similar to that used 
on the Mills hand grenade. The Ordnance Board 
now reported that the gun was better than a 3.7-in. 
trench mortar which the War Office had been 
manufacturing, and it was formally approved on 
28th August. This was just as well, for already on 
22nd August General Headquarters in France had 
telegraphed the War Office for as many Stokes 
mortars as could possibly be supplied by 1st 
September, and had sent over an officer to consult 
with the Trench Warfare Department about the 
smoke bombs it was desired to use in them for a 
smoke screen in the coming Battle of Loos. Thirty 
were hastily improvised and sent out. 

During the remainder of the War, the Stokes 
gun became and remained the trench mortar in 
highest favour and most constant demand. Out of 
19,000 trench mortars and trench howitzers 
issued during the War to our troops, 11,500 
were Stokes guns. Throughout 1917 and 1918 the 
3-in. Stokes gun was the only form of light trench 
mortar manufactured, as by this time it had clearly 
proved its superiority to all rival patterns. And this 
was the weapon which the Ordnance Department of 
the War Office had done its best to fling aside as 
worthless. 

Naturally after this experience I was more than 
ever anxious to bring the supervision of new inventions 
and improvements in design under the control of 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 621 

a progressively-minded body, which would not suffer 
from an ingrained habit of rejecting every fresh idea on 
Growino need principle- The fact that we were at that 
for examination time being held up by the delay in 
of inventions setding the ingredients of shell filling 
by Ministry anc i design of fresh fuses and gaines 
made me still more desirous of having complete 
control in those vital matters. The Admiralty, as I 
have said, was showing itself far more alert in this 
respect than the War Office, and in face of the failure 
of the Ordnance Department to do anything in the 
matter, was even studying new ideas for land warfare. 
On the plea that they would be of value to the 
Royal Naval Air Service, Mr. Churchill had as early 
as January, 1915, begun investigations into the 
possibilities of armoured cars, and had set up in 
February the Admiralty Landslips Committee, which 
carried out work of immense value for the evolution 
of the tank. 

I was, naturally, being deluged at the Ministry of 
Munitions with letters and calls from people who 
had some new invention or improvement to propose. 
The great majority of these ideas were, of course, 
useless, and many of them came from cranks and 
lunatics. But it was clear, as in the case of Mr. Stokes, 
that some of them might prove of value, and it was 
also evident from the result of the Admiralty researches 
into land warfare and the rejection of Lord Moulton’s 
recommendations about explosives, that the War Office 
was failing to carry out the work urgently required 
in this field. Early in June I arranged 
Tank research w jth Mr. Balfour to take over all the 
Admiralty^™™ wor ^ °f the Admiralty in reference to 
expedients and inventions for land war- 
fare. This meant, amongst other things, that the 



622 WAR MEMOIRS 

manufacture of tanks was handed over to the 
Ministry. 

In reply to a request I made to him. Lord Kitchener 
sent a message through Sir Reginald Brade that 
he was agreeable to my taking over the inventions 
work relating to munitions, for the supply of which 
my Department was responsible. 

Accordingly, on 13 th July a meeting was held at 
which a new Department of the Ministry was set up 
Inventions for dealing with inventions having relation 
Department set j 0 Munitions of War. 

l fh Moir’l iy ' To carry out the duties of this Depart- 
appointme.ni ment I appointed Mr. Ernest Moir. 
This development was described by me as follows, 
in the course of a speech which I made in the House 
of Commons on 28th July on the work of the Ministry : 

“ I should like to say one word as to what we 
are doing with regard to inventions. It is essential 
My speech f° r t ^ ie con duct of the War that the fullest 
in the use should be made of the best brains of 
House, inventors and scientific men. Perhaps 

s 8 i 7\ l 5 hitherto there has been a want of co- 
ordination among the various methods of dealing 
with the projects of inventors. So far as naval 
inventions are concerned, the First Lord of the 
Admiralty has set up an Inventions Board under 
the distinguished presidency of Lord Fislicr. 

I have just concluded arrangements to constitute 
an Inventions Branch of the Ministry of Munitions, 
and I hope it will do for inventions for land warfare 
what Lord Fisher’s Committee will do for sea 
warfare. 

The War Office is handing over the whole question 
of inventions to us, and careful arrangements 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 623 

have been made to secure that the new branch 
shall keep in close touch with Lord Fisher’s 
Board to avoid duplication and overlapping, and 
also with the War Office experts and Army 
authorities who must have the ultimate voice in 
deciding whether any particular invention is of 
service in actual warfare. 

I have appointed Mr. E. W. Moir, a distinguished 
engineer who has already given valuable assistance 
to my department on a voluntary basis, to take 
charge of the new branch, and he will not only 
have an expert staff, but also a panel of scientific 
consultants on technical and scientific points. It 
ought to be clearly understood that only a very 
small minority of inventors’ projects are of practical 
value [laughter] . Many projects fail from technical 
defects, and many others, though technically 
perfect, are unsuited to the practical conditions of 
warfare. 

The new branch will have justified its existence 
if one project in a hundred, or even in one thousand, 
turns out to be of practical utility in the present 
emergency. 

We have got a good many which we are 
experimenting upon very hopefully.” 

Despite the optimism of that speech, it turned out 
that the setting up of this Inventions Department 
was only the beginning of our troubles. Although 
their political heads had given consent to the transfer, 
the officials of the War Office were most reluctant 
to part with any vestige of their authority, and a 
duel began between them and my own officials. 

By the beginning of September very little progress 
had been made. I accordingly saw Lord Kitchener, 



624 WAR MEMOIRS 

and secured his consent to an arrangement whereby 
Duel with Colonel Hickman, of the War Office, and 
War Office : Mr. Moir should keep in touch with each 
arrangement other so that new ideas and suggestions 
with Kitchener rece i V ed by the War Office should be 

passed along to the Ministry, 

But despite this friendly effort to come to a satis- 
factory arrangement, and the accommodating spirit 
displayed by the Secretary for War, the trouble with 
the War Office went on unabated. At the end of 
September the Ordnance Board set up rival bodies 
analogous to the Advisory Panel of the Ministry of 
Munitions. On 16th October I received a letter 
from Moir which I will transcribe, as it gives a vivid 
picture of the campaign of obstruction which was at 
that time being waged by the War Office against the 
Ministry on this and other issues. 

“ Ministry of Munitions. 

Princes Street, 

Westminster, S.W. 

1 6th October, 1915. 

The Rt. Hon. David Lloyd George, M.P., 

6, Whitehall Gardens, S.W. 

Dear Mr. Lloyd George, 

Having been asked by General von Donop 
to call on him on Thursday the General 
Mr. Moir’s informed me that he saw some difficulty 
Complaint. i n transferring to the Inventions Branch of 
the Ministry of Munitions the powers 
granted to the Secretary of State for War by Clause 
30, Sub-Section 12, of the Patents Act, 1907. This 
Sub-Section provides that the submission of an in- 
vention to the War Office or the Admiralty shall 
not act as publication, and on the 2nd October 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 625 

application was made through Sir Herbert 
Llewellyn Smith for a transfer of that provision to 
the Ministry of Munitions. 

General von Donop’s point was that in sending 
on from the War Office to the Munitions Inventions 
Department such inventions as the War Office 
thought were of no use (for these are admittedly 
the only suggestions that they are sending us at 
the present time) they might be running some risk 
of complaint by the inventor should such ideas 
leak out through their submission to our Panel of 
Experts. In such cases the War Office might be 
blamed. My answer to this was that up to the 
present as they had only sent to this Department 
things that, according to their lights, were of no use, 
I naturally had not insulted our Panel by putting 
these before them, and had dealt with them myself. 

Incidentally, I went on to say that I hoped there 
would soon be some arrangement made by which 
this Department would not only see the worthless 
but also the possible ideas that were useful from 
the War Office point of view. 

I also enlarged on the fact that this Department 
could get no military assistance, and that the 
War Office assistance which we already had in the 
removes shape of Colonel Goold- Adams and 
"experts Colonel Heffernan was going to be with- 
f,om drawn from our Panel for, so far as I could 

Ministry ascertain, no sufficient reason. These two 
experts on artillery, I told General von Donop, 
were of immense value to us, and far from wanting 
to reduce the military members of the Panel we 
wanted to increase them. The reason for suggest- 
ing their removal, General von Donop said, was 
because the balance of the Ordnance Board was 



626 


WAR MEMOIRS 


overworked and consequently Colonel Goold- 
Adams and Colonel Heffernan must return to 
Woolwich. I asked him if he could get someone 
to take these two gentlemen’s places temporarily 
on the Ordnance Board. He said that if they did 
not return he would have them, removed from the Board 
and would not allow them to return even after the War. 

During the course of conversation I pointed out 
that although this Department had been informed 
that we could not be given any military assistance 
the War Office had been able to get together an 
Inventions Board numbering 14, and including 
seven Generals, three Colonels, and three Majors. 
I also told him that my view of the matter was 
that our Inventions Department had probably 
relieved the War Office of a good deal of work. 

The whole matter seems to me to be a further 
indication, if any were necessary, of the spirit of 
objection to civil assistance by the military author- 
ities, and I think that a good deal of the resistance 
comes from the gentleman with whom I had the 
interview. 

I have not seen Colonel Goold-Adams, but 
Colonel Heffernan, with some trepidation, admitted 
to me recently that he enjoyed his work with us 
very much, and that he did not want to give it up. 
He would be quite willing to carry it on on 
Saturdays or Sundays if he could not do so in 
any other way. Unfortunately an engagement of 
this sort would be a very difficult one to carry out 
except so far as concerns the attending of experi- 
ments or visiting work which is going on. 

Both Colonel Goold-Adams and Colonel Heffer- 
nan are highly intelligent men, and I consider that 
they should not be removed from your department 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 62J 

either in connection with inventions or anything 
else. The other six members who are left behind 
on the Ordnance Board should, I imagine, under 
stress of war conditions, either be reinforced or 
could probably find it possible to do the work 
among themselves. 

Of course, we can get on without anybody, but 
there is, I think, an obvious effort to defeat the 
objects that you have set yourself out to attain, at 
least in some of their departments, on the part of 
the Military Authorities. 

Yours faithfully, 

E. Moir.” 


The two officers mentioned in this letter were 
members of the Inventions section of the Ordnance 
Board, who had been seconded for work with the 
Ministry's Inventions Board as a means of keeping 
liaison with the military authorities. This was part 
of the arrangement I had come to with Lord Kitchener 
at the time when it was agreed that inventions should 
be transferred to the Ministry of Munitions for 
research and investigation. 

A fortnight later Mr. Moir wrote me with the news 
that Colonel Goold-Adams had been recalled by the 
Further letter : War Office. He enclosed the Colonel's 
Colonel Go old- letter, which was in the following 
Adams removed terms : — 


“ Ordnance Board Office, 
Royal Arsenal, 

Woolwich. 
29th October, 1915. 


Dear Mr. Moir, 

... I regret to say that I have been officially 
informed to-day that I am to sever my connection 

G 


vol. n 



WAR MEMOIRS 


628 

with the Ministry of Munitions, and no reason is 
given. 

I am more than sorry to have to do so, but it 
cannot be helped. 

When you have had an opportunity I hope you 
will express my regret to Mr. Lloyd George. 

Sincerely yours, 

H. Goold-Adams. 

P.S. — I need hardly say that if my services or 
advice are wanted officially at any future date I 
shall only be too glad to be of assistance. 

H. G. A.” 

The whole position was unsatisfactory. Had the 
Design Department of the War Office been not only 
efficient and energetic, with an appreciation of the 
value of time in war, and had it also worked har- 
moniously and with good will with the new Manu- 
facturing Department, then no serious mishaps or 
delays would have ensued. But that was not the 
case. The process of manufacture in every 
direction was being held up by mistakes here and 
procrastination there. 

It must be remembered that up to this stage, the 
Ministry of Munitions had merely been accorded 
power to make researches and investigations with 
regard to new inventions and improvements. It had 
no control over the design of either new or old 
patterns of munitions. That was still in the hands 
of the War Office, which retained its Inventions Board 
with overriding authority over the Ministry’s researches. 

Moreover, in connection with the expansion of 
manufacture there constantly arose questions of the 
possibility of modifying or adapting specifications 
to suit the exigencies of production ; and in these 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 629 

questions the Ministry, which was responsible for 
production, was powerless until a lengthy process of 
Delays caused consultation with the War Office and ex- 
by War Office perimentation by these officials produced 
control of ultimate sanction. Such questions arose 

design daily, for the practical experience of 

war was making matchwood of old theories and 
traditional patterns of munitions. The standard fuses 
proved unreliable and caused prematures and “ duds,” 
the guns and gun-carriages were seen to be capable of 
improvement, and the new forms of warfare which 
developed were calling constantly for new types of 
weapons, or modifications of existing types. The 
difficulties with regard to the composition of shell 
explosive and the ingredients of cordite were 
causing grave anxiety and delay, and the fuses were 
thoroughly unsatisfactory. The Ministry, responsible 
for meeting all these changing demands, was unable 
to move because of the division of authority with the 
Ordnance Board. While the Board had been re- 
sponsible for design and production, it had been 
able to co-ordinate the two, if it so willed, without 
delay. Obviously, it was desirable, since the 
Ministry had taken over production, that it should 
also have the responsibility for design. This divided 
authority, with the consequent delays on the part of 
the War Office in coming to vital decisions on fuses 
and explosives, seriously impeded the work of pro- 
duction of completed shells. Shell cases multiplied 
at a great rate, but the same pace could not be kept 
in the matter of the completion until the design of 
the fuses and the ingredients of the explosives were 
finally settled. 

As I have pointed out, the position with regard to 
explosives was critical and threatened us with a 



WAR MEMOIRS 


630 

disastrous shortage of shells for the front. The delays 
of the War Office in coming to a decision were 
seriously impeding production. A letter 
General ^ written by General Du Cane on 22nd 
hue ?* 1 ' 165 October, 1915, to Colonel Arthur Lee, 
who had just taken over Sir Ivor Philipps’s 
position as Military Secretary to the Ministry of 
Munitions, revealed other directions in which the 
handling of design by the War Office was proving 
a source of danger as well as of delay. General Du 
Cane presided over the Experiments Committee at 
G.H.Q.. in France. The games which detonated the 
shells were so ill-designed that they caused premature 
explosions which burst our guns at an alarming rate. 
The total number of our guns at that date was not high. 

Here is an extract from General Du Cane’s letter : — 


“. . . I feel pretty confident that you will never 
get your show running smoothly until you get 
full responsibility for pattern and experiments. I 
am pretty sure that you will find that the system 
by which the War Office and Ordnance Board 
retain the responsibility for these matters is your 
great stumbling-block. The M.G.O.’s people seem 
to me to be mentally exhausted and the Ordnance 
Board and Experimental Department at Shoebury 
to be hopelessly congested. 

K.’s great argument for keeping control was that 
he must be responsible for the safety of the troops, 
War Office because being voluntary soldiers they 
not would all run away or desert if we burst 

protecting guns like the French. He has failed 
the troops hopelessly as regards safety, and the result 
of his control now is to prevent the causes of the 
trouble being definitely ascertained. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 631 

At present ourH.E. for 13 and 18 pounders is so 
unreliable that we cannot use it in large quantities. 
We have lost 36 guns since the 21st September for 
an average of one accident to something between 
4,000 and 5,000 rounds. That is worse than the 
French ever were. 

During the recent operations the French accidents 
were one to 120,000 rounds. We have a long way 
to go yet. I suggested to L.G. that he shall ask 
the French for 200,000 of their fuses so that we 
could use them while we are getting our own 
right. . . . 

The loss of 36 guns in a month by prematures 
represents the highest percentage of bursts ever 
suffered by any artillery on either side in this war.” 

Accordingly in mid-November I wrote the following 
letter to the Prime Minister : — 


“ 6, Whitehall Gardens, 

Whitehall, S.W. 


My dear P.M., 

I hope it will now be possible to come to a 
decision as to the future of the Ordnance 
My letter to Board. 

Mr. Asquith Important munitions are being held up 
or retarded, and I am receiving serious 
complaints from the Department as to the position 
of matters. The present situation is an impossible 
one. M. Thomas has complete control of design 
as well as manufacture, but I am helpless. 

Yours sincerely, 

D. Lloyd George.” 


Mr. Asquith was at that time temporarily acting 



WAR MEMOIRS 


632 

as Secretary for War, in the absence of Lord 
Kitchener, who had gone to the Mediterranean, and 
he supported my attitude. Strong protests were 
raised by the officials at the War Office. General 
von Donop foresaw a general relaxation of strictness 
of design which would endanger the safety of the 
Army. Sir Charles Harris, the Assistant Financial 
Secretary, protested against the breach with precedent 
and the overthrowing of the remarkable instrument 
of efficiency existing in the Ordnance Board. Manu- 
facturing questions were, according to him, a part 
only, and that not the most important part, of the 
Board’s work. “ To make a civilian department 
responsible for the design of munitions as well as 
for their supply would be to head straight back to 
the inefficiency that had been experienced in the 
Egyptian campaign of 1880. The Ordnance Board 
ought to be strengthened, not abolished.” 

But in November, 1915, people were more impressed 
with the hindrances to action before their eyes than 
with what a Treasury clerk witnessed in 1880, and 
despite these protests the Prime Minister decided to 
transfer design of munitions to the Ministry, and to 
abandon the Ordnance Board control. This decision 
was embodied in the following memorandum noted 
by Sir Reginald Brade : — 

“ The transfer to the Ministry of Munitions of 
the responsibility for designs, patterns, and specifica- 
tions for testing of arms and ammunition, 
Transfer of an( j f or the examination of inventions 
^Ministry bearing on s uc h munitions, leaves to the 
War Office the following functions only 
in regard to munitions of war, viz. : — 

1. The duty of fixing the requirements of 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


633 

the Army both as regards the general nature 
and amount of the munitions required, together 
with the duty of allocating all such material. 

2. The duty of receipt, custody and actual 
distribution of all such supplies. 


These functions fall to the General Staff and the 
Quartermaster-General’s department respectively. 
This is the system in force with the Army in the 
field, and, in altered conditions, should be followed 
in the War Office during the War. 

As regards the staffs hitherto employed in this 
work, such officers and others as are necessary for 
the performance of the limited functions remaining 
to the War Office should be retained ; the balance 
being placed at the disposal of the Ministry of 
Munitions. The exact details must be worked out 
in conference between representatives of the two 
offices. 

The above was dictated to me by the Prime 
Minister with instructions to notify it as his decision 
arrived at after consideration of the relative 
positions of the War Office and the Ministry of 
Munitions in which each stands now that the 
transfer of duties . . . has been approved.” 


Following this decision, on 29th November, 1915, 
the new duties in regard to design were formally 
undertaken by the Ministry, and the 
control of experimental and research 
bodies, such as the Research Department, 
Woolwich, was also transferred from the 
War Office. The Department of Munitions Design, 
formed within the Ministry, was placed under the 
control of General Du Cane. The Ordnance Board 
was dissolved on 4th December, 1915, and 


Ordnance 

Board 

dissolved 



WAR MEMOIRS 


634 

reconstituted as the Ordnance Committee and 
advisory body to both the Ministry of Munitions 
and the Admiralty. 

I quote an extract from a letter I wrote at this 
date, 30th November, 1915 : — 

“ Lord Kitchener comes home to-day. They 
have not been able to keep him away. However, 
in his absence the Prime Minister has handed over 
the Ordnance Board to me. I have been fighting 
for this for months, but the War Office have 
dodged me, and by keeping the Ordnance Board 
have been able to limit very considerably the 
energies of all this department. Moreover, when 
anything was accomplished it was only after hard 
fighting and much unpleasantness.” 

One last fight remained. Whatever else the War 
Office failed to do, they at least lived up to the old 
tradition of the British Army of never 
War Office knowing when they were beaten. Not only 
fiaH a aSt inventions, but design and inspection had 
now, in set terms, been transferred to the 
Ministry of Munitions. “ Very well,” said the War 
Office in effect, “ go ahead, and design and inspect 
your munitions. But before wc issue them to the 
Army, we reserve the right to submit them to our 
own tests and inspection, and to send out only those 
designs of which we also approve.” 

Accordingly the War Office refused to transfer 
their testing and experimental staff at the school of 
musketry at Hythe, maintained the department of 
the Director of Artillery at the War Office as an 
overriding authority superior to the Ministry of 
Munitions, and generally set themselves to nullify 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 635 

wherever possible the change which had been 
decided on. 

General Du Cane, fresh from the battle zone, found 
himself pitchforked into this internecine conflict. 
On 14th December he submitted the following 
memorandum upon the position : — 

“ Relations with the War Office. 

When the Prime Minister and Mr. Lloyd George 
first discussed with me the formation of a Military 
General Department in the Ministry, to be respons- 
Du Cane’s ible for the design of munitions, I pointed 
memo- out to them that this proposal would 
1 annum depend for success on two conditions being 
fulfilled, viz. : — 

1. The necessary officers being placed at the 
disposal of the Ministry. 

2. The removal of possible causes of friction 
that might result from the maintenance of a 
rival technical department in the War Office. 

The first of these conditions has been fulfilled, 
but the second has not. 

Before I was appointed to my present position 
I had an interview with the Prime Minister at the 
War Office, at which he said that he fully recog- 
nised the difficulties that must result from my 
having personal relations with the M.G.O. and 
the officers of the D. of A.’s directorate in the 
circumstances that must result from the contem- 
plated measure of reorganisation, and instructions 
were issued by him that the General Staff would 
deal with the ‘ requirements and allocation, 5 and 
the Q.M.G. with ‘ distribution.’ 

These instructions have not been carried out. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


and the D. of A.’s directorate still exists at the 
... rux War Office and deals with these subjects. 
refusal to It is true that arrangements have been 
carry out made for references from the Ministry on 
instructions su bject of ‘ requirements, 5 to be sent 
to the Director of Staff Duties, but this officer 
refers them again to the D. of A. and merely passes 
on his replies. 

The difficult situation that it was hoped to avert, 
therefore, actually exists. There is still a rival 
tec hni cal department at the War Office, tenacious 
of its position. The officers of this department feel 
deep resentment at being deprived of their most 
important functions, and while they are the officers 
who should be in the closest possible touch with 
my department, working harmoniously with my 
officers, the relations are so strained that they result 
in their avoiding one another as much as possible. 
The bad effects of this situation are already 
beginning to be felt, and if it is allowed to continue 
it will inevitably result in acute friction and loss 
of efficiency. 

I submit that it is essential that effect should be 
given at once to the Prime Minister’s decision, 
that a proper channel of communication should 
be established with the War Office, and that 
cordial and harmonious relations should be estab- 
lished without any further delay. If this cannot 
be brought about, I must confess my inability to 
look forward to the task before me with confidence. 

J. P. Du Cane, D.G.M.G., M.G. 

14/12/15.” 

This was plain speaking, and not by a civilian, but 
by a highly placed staff officer of acknowledged ability 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 637 

and of long military experience. But the War Office 
still fought on, and on 5 th January, 1916, a letter was 
received at the Ministry, in the following terms : — 

“ War Office, London, 

January 5th, 1916. 
Sir, 

With reference to your letter No. D.G.M.D./ 
General/8, dated the 13th December, 1915, I am 
War Office commanded by the Army Council to 
letter : still inform you that they observe that it is 
trying to proposed in the letter under reply that 
retain control t £ e £ na ] approval to new designs, or 

amendments to existing designs, should be given 
by the Director-General Munitions Design. The 
Army Council, however, consider it most desirable 
that the approval should not be given until they have 
expressed their concurrence as to its suitability for 
adoption as meeting the requirements of the 
Service. I am to add that the Army Council are 
strongly of opinion, confirmed by experience, that 
in most cases before final approval is given to 
inventions or designs, practical trials on conditions 
formulated by the Army Council, carried out by 
troops under the orders and observation of res- 
ponsible military commanders selected by the 
Council, are essential. Any special conditions 
which the Ministry of Munitions desired would 
be added to those formulated by the Army Council. 

In accordance with the views expressed above, 
the Council desire to retain at their own disposal 
an experimental staff at Hythe, but they will be 
glad to arrange for the Director-General Munitions 
Design to obtain from this staff and that of the 
Machine-Gun School any assistance that he may 



WAR MEMOIRS 


638 

desire, and, so far as is possible, they will endeavour 
to meet the wishes of the Ministry of Munitions as 
regards the transfer, or loan to that Department, of 
individual officers now serving at Hythe. 

I am, etc., 

R. H. Brade.” 


I do not need to point out that this letter was, in 
effect, a flat refusal on the part of the Army Council 
to acquiesce in and carry out loyally the 
Final decision decisions already made as to the transfer 

Committee ^ design and inspection to the Ministry. 

I had no option but to bring the matter 
before the Cabinet War Committee — somewhat, I 
think, to the Prime Minister’s bewilderment, for he 
had assumed that this was all settled and done with. 
It was thrashed out in two meetings, on 26th January 
and 3rd February, 1916, and a formula ultimately 
agreed which laid it down that : — 


“ (a) The responsibility for designs, patterns, 
and specifications and for testing arms and 
ammunition rests with the Ministry of Munitions. 

(b) The Army Council is responsible for the 
general nature and amount of the weapons and 
equipment required, but there shall be no court 
of appeal set up in the War Office from the decisions 
of the Ministry of Munitions under (a) . 

(c) When it is necessary that new weapons, 
stores, or articles of equipment should undergo 
practical trials by troops, cither at home or in the 
field, the co-operation of the Army Council should 
be sought by the Ministry. 

(' d ) The Army Council should be represented 
on Advisory Committees or bodies under the 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 639 

Ministry of Munitions to the extent that the Army 

Council think desirable.” 

By this time the War Office had shot their last 
bolt, and the decisions embodied in the above clauses 
formed the basis upon which the work of munition 
design was carried forward thereafter by the Ministry 
with ever-increasing smoothness and efficiency. But 
after what an expenditure of time, mental concentration 
and energy ! Meanwhile we had to put up with 
unsatisfactory gaines and fuses which often caused 
more trouble to our troops than to the enemy. In 
February, 1916, a decision was arrived at which 
ought to have been reached in June, 1915. It 
naturally took the new department some time to 
perfect their designs. Manufacturers proceeded with 
the mechanisms already settled and sanctioned, and 
when the great battle was fought later on in the year 
we suffered in the quality of our shells from the delay. 

7. TANKS 

British in conception, design and manufacture, the 
Tank was the one outstanding and dramatic in- 
novation brought forth by the War in 
Value of the the sphere of mechanical aids to warfare. 
new weapon It was the ultimate British reply to the 
machine-guns and heavily fortified trench 
systems of the German Army, and there is no doubt 
whatever that it played a very important part in 
helping the Allies to victory. It might have played a 
still greater part if it had been developed more 
promptly through a livelier display of sympathy and 
encouragement on the part of the War Office, and 
if its use in the field had been more intelligently 



WAR MEMOIRS 


64O 

exploited. Even in spite of blunders in these respects, 
the Tank saved an immense number of British lives, 
and gave invaluable stimulus to the morale of our 
troops, while spreading terror and alarm among those 
of the enemy. 

I am not concerned here to enter upon the con- 
troversial question of the origin of the Tank. The 
idea of a mechanically propelled, travelling fortress 
was one which had occurred to a number of inventive 
minds, even before the War. My own 
My connection connection with its development only 

with its started after I had entered on my duties 

development ^ Minigter of Munitions . In that office, 

and subsequently as Secretary of State for War and 
as Prime Minister, I had a good deal to do with the 
later stages in the evolution and manufacture of this 
new weapon. The first tentative experiments, mainly 
carried out by the Air Department of the Admiralty, 
and backed by the foresight and enthusiasm of Mr. 
Winston Churchill had already been undertaken 
when I came on the scene. 

My first encounter with the early attempts to 
produce a self-propelled machine, capable of crossing 
trenches and forcing its way through 
Early entanglements, was when on 30th June, 

experiments 1915, I was invited with Mr. Winston 
Churchill to witness an exhibition by 
R.N.A.S. officers at Wormwood Scrubs of experi- 
ments with a wire-cutter affixed to a caterpillar 
tractor. This was not a tank, nor indeed anything 
like it ; but it was one of the early experimental 
models, tested and later abandoned in the search 
for a device which would accomplish what the Tank 
ultimately achieved. 

I was surprised to find that these experiments were 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 641 

being conducted by naval men, mosdy temporary 
officers and ratings of the armoured car division of 
the Royal Naval Air Force. On enquiry I found 
that the Admiralty had till then been, and still were 
responsible for the experimental work of developing 
this machine for land warfare, and were carrying 
out their work with funds voted for the 
Initiative Navy and with naval personnel ! This 

MuChmchiU was sufficiently astonishing. But my 
astonishment was succeeded by admiration 


of Mr. Churchill’s enterprise when I discovered that 
he alone of those in authority before whom the idea 
of a mobile armoured shelter was placed, had had the 
vision to appreciate its potential value, and the pluck 
to back, practically and financially, the experiments 
for its development. 

Later I discovered that the project for a machine- 
gun destroyer, propelled on the caterpillar principle, 


Colonel 

Swinton's 

suggestions 


had in fact been put forward in October, 
1914, by a soldier, Colonel Swinton, who 
realised how deadly the German machine- 
guns were proving to our infantry, and 


laid his idea before the Secretary to the Committee 


of Imperial Defence, Colonel Hankey, who quickly 
appreciated its value and importance. Colonel 
Swinton had followed this up at the beginning of 


January 7 , 1915, by pressing the matter personally 
on the War Office. Colonel Hankey had put 
forward the suggestion, along with other new ideas, 
in a memorandum dated 28th December, 1914, to 


the Committee of Imperial Defence. Mr. Churchill 
wrote to the Prime Minister on 5th January, 1915, 


supporting the proposal, and fortunately he also 
proceeded to initiate independent measures for 
investigation and experiment financed from the Navy 



WAR MEMOIRS 


642 

vote. “ Fortunately,” because though the War Office 
set up a Committee to investigate Colonel Swinton’s 
suggestion, it dropped the project after a few experi- 
ments and decided to take no further action. As Mr. 
Churchill, when Secretary of State for War, said 
four-and-a-half years later in his evidence before the 
Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors, with 
reference to the part played by the War Office : 
“ Certain investigations and experiments were made, 
but the matter came to a dead end. ... I 
formed the opinion that no real progress was being 
made and that the military authorities were quite 
unconvinced either of the practicability of making 
such engines or of their value when made.” 

After seeing the experiments at Wormwood Scrubs, 
I arranged with Mr. Balfour, the new First Lord of 
Ministry of the Admiralty, that the Ministry of 
Munitions Munitions should undertake responsibility 
unda takes for the manufacture of tanks, while the 
supply Admiralty Committee continued experi- 

ments. Major Albert Stern, as Chairman of the 
Ministry’s Tank Committee, threw great energy into 
their production. 

The first-fruits of this arrangement appeared when, 
at the beginning of February, 1916, I went with 
other Ministers, including Lord Kitchener and various 
naval and military officers and some representatives 
Trial of the from G.H.Q., France, to witness the 
“ Mother ” official trial of the first machine — later 
Tank at known as the “ Mother ” Tank — at 
Hatfield Hatfield Park. The experiment was a 
complete success, the tank achieving even more than 
it was asked to accomplish. And I can recall the 
feeling of delighted amazement with which I saw 
for the first time the ungainly monster, bearing the 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 643 

inscription “ H.M.S. Centipede ” on its breast, 
plough through thick entanglements, wallow through 
deep mud, and heave its huge bulk over parapets 
and across trenches. At last, I thought, we have the 
answer to the German machine-guns and wire. Mr. 
Balfour’s delight was as great as my own, and it was 
only with difficulty that some of us persuaded him 
to disembark from H.M. Landship, whilst she crossed 
the last test, a trench several feet wide. 

Sir William Robertson was also very favourably 
impressed, but Lord Kitchener scoffed as the huge, 
Lord clumsy creature lumbered and tumbled 

Kitchener's about, though always moving forward, 
view of the and expressed the opinion that it would 
Tank be very quickly knocked out by artillery. 

He certainly gave me the impression at the time that 
he thought little of the invention ; but a different tight 
is shed upon his attitude by a letter I have quite 
recently received from General Sir Robert Whigham, 
who in 1916 was a member of the Army Council, and 
accompanied Lord Kitchener to the Hatfield trial. 
He writes : — 

“ . . . Lord Kitchener was so much impressed 
that he remarked to Sir William Robertson that 
it was far too valuable a weapon for so much 
publicity. He then left the trial ground before 
the trials were concluded, with the deliberate 
intention of creating the impression that he did 
not think there was anything to be gained from 
them. Sir William Robertson followed him straight 
away, taking me with him, to my great disappoint- 
ment as I was just going to have a ride in the tank ! 
During the drive back to London, Sir William 
explained to me the reason of Lord Kitchener’s 

VOL. II H 



WAR MEMOIRS 


644 

and his own early departure, and impressed on 
me the necessity for maintaining absolute secrecy 
about the tank, explaining that Lord Kitchener 
was rather disturbed at so many people being present 
at the trials as he feared they would get talked 
about and the Germans would get to hear of them. 
It is a matter of history that after these trials fifty 
tanks were ordered and that Lord Kitchener 
went to his death before they were ready for the 
field. I do know, however, that he had great 
expectations of them, for he used to send for me 
pretty frequently while he was S. of S. and I was 
D.C.I.G.S., and he referred to them more than 
once in the course of conversation. His one fear 
was that the Germans would get to hear of them 
before they were ready.” 

Out of fairness to Lord Kitchener’s memory I 
insert this letter here. 

If this is the correct interpretation of Lord Kit- 
chener’s view, I can only express regret that he did 
not see fit to inform me of it at the time, in view of 
the fact that I was responsible as Minister of Munitions 
for the manufacture of these weapons. 

The mention of this tank test recalls to my mind 
an incident which amused us all at the time, on the 
occasion of another similar test which 
A partridge's took place on Lord Iveagh’s estate. The 
nest spared elephantine monstrosity crashed through 
shrubberies, smashing young trees and 
bushes into the earth, and leaving behind it a wide 
trail of destruction. I went to inspect this mashed 
and mutilated track, and there in the middle of it 
I found a partridge’s nest full of eggs — and, incredible 
to relate, not a single egg had been broken ! 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


The work of production and supply naturally fell 
to the Ministry of Munitions, and on 12th February, 
1916, a few days after the trials at Hatfield, the War 
Office formally placed an order for 100 tanks. 
Soon after manufacture had started, the number of 
tanks asked for was increased to 150, and work was 
pressed on at full speed, since the necessity 
Manufacture was ur g e nt ; but production presented 
of tanks special difficulties, because the type was 
entirely new and parts had still to be 
improvised. Shortly after the commencement of 
the Somme battle, the military authorities decided 
to make use of a number of the machines as soon as 
they could be produced, to help on our renewed 
offensive before the winter months, and in August, 
1916, upwards of 50 were shipped over to France. 
On 15th September, just seven months after the 
signature of the “ charter ” authorising their con- 
struction, some 49 of these were thrown into the battle. 

Not the least remarkable thing about the intro- 
duction of these new weapons is the fact that although 
thousands of persons of all grades 
A well-kept necessarily knew all about them, the 
secret secret of the tanks was so well kept that 

their first appearance came as a real 
surprise to the enemy. The very name “ Tank ” 
reflects the fact that during construction they were 
camouflaged even in name by being described as 
tanks and water carriers. Hence the tests at Hatfield 
were described on the programme as a “ Tank Trial.” 

But the decision of the army chiefs to launch the 
first handful of these machines on a comparatively 
local operation in September, 1916, instead of 
waiting until a much larger number were available 
to carry out a great drive, has always appeared to me 



WAR MEMOIRS 


646 

to have been a foolish blunder. It was contrary to the 
views of those who had first realised the need for such 
a weapon, had conceived it, fought for 
Premature its adoption, designed it, produced it, and 
use a blunder carried out the training of those who 
were to man it in the field. We made 
the same error as the Germans committed in April, 
1915, when by their initial use of poison gas on a 
small sector alone, they gave away the secret of a new 
and deadly form of attack, which, had it been used 
for the first time on a grand scale, might have produced 
results of a decisive character. 

Mr. Montagu, who succeeded me as Minister of 
Munitions, supported the “ tankers ” in their earnest 
endeavours to keep the tanks from being thrown into 
action until several hundred had been manufactured 
and manned by trained crews. I saw the Prime 
Minister, and begged him to intervene authoritatively. 
He did not disagree, but referred me to Sir William 
Robertson. I urged the G.I.G.S. to exert his influence 
with the Commander-in-Chief. He answered in his 
most laconic style, “ Haig wants them.” So the great 
secret was sold for the battered ruin of a little hamlet 
on the Somme, which was not worth capturing. 

In spite, however, of this decision of the Com- 
mander-in-Chief in the field, and of the remarkable 
moral effect produced by the tanks when 
Ii resolution of they went into action, an atmosphere of 
Army Council doubt and prejudice lingered for some 
time at the War Office. On 26th Septem- 
ber, 1916, the Army Council asked for an additional 
1 ,000 tanks ; but after the orders for these machines, 
and for the vast number of component parts required 
had been placed, and the complicated machinery for 
the production of this mass of materials had been set 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


647 


in action, I discovered that the demand had without 
my knowledge been cancelled by the Army Council. 
I at once countermanded this cancellation, and took 
steps to ensure that production should continue. 

I retained my belief in the tanks, and my interest 
in their development and use, throughout the War. 
Even when I had ceased to be directly concerned in 
their production or employment, the subject not 
infrequendy came under my notice as Chairman of 
the War Cabinet to which questions were referred, 
owing to the disagreement of some of those responsible 
for the origin of the tanks with the methods and 
tactics employed in their use. Questions of delay in 
production and supply, sometimes due to lack of 
continuity in the policy of G.H.Q., sometimes due to 
difficulties of manufacture, also came up. Indeed, 
there were moments when I regretted that in the case 
of the tanks I had not taken the same course as I had 
adopted in regard to heavy artillery and machine- 
guns, and organised at the outset for a larger supply 
than the War Office demanded. 

I do not consider that the tanks were correctly used 


until the Battle of Cambrai in November, 1917. This 
action, though indecisive, if not sterile of 


Ultimate 
triumph of the 
new weapon 


result — through no fault of the new arm — 
will, I think, go down to history as one of 
the epoch-making events of the War, 


marking the beginning of a new era in mechanical 


warfare. Nevertheless, even after the remarkable 


success of the machines, there was a slowness to 


realise and a reluctance to admit their potentialities, 
alike as savers of life and as begetters of victory. But 


by the summer of 1918 their value was definitely 
established. Joint arrangements were made by the 
British, French and Americans for their production 



WAR MEMOIRS 


648 

on a great scale, and the plans for the continuation 
of operations during 1919 contemplated their employ- 
ment, as well as that of cross-country tractors, in 
immense numbers. In fact, had the advance of the 
Allies in 1919 taken place, it would have been a 
devastating march of hordes of mechanical caterpillars. 


8. SUMMARY OF ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE MINISTRY 

I will not weary my readers by further details of 
the complex problems which the Ministry of Munitions 
Complex had to tackle. Some indication of their 
problem of variety may be gleaned from the fact that 
munitions the preparation of a single product such 
manufacture as a com pl e te round of 1 8-pounder high- 
explosive shell involved the manufacture and assembly 
of 78 accurately gauged components — 15 for the 
cartridge, 1 1 for the shell, and 52 for the fuse, gaine, 
etc. And the main types of shell ran to some twenty- 
six different sizes and kinds. 

By September, 1915, three months after I had taken 
over the Ministry of Munitions, we were producing 

120.000 filled shells of all kinds weekly, as against the 

70.000 a week when I took over the job of munitions. 
In January, 1916, the figure had risen to 238,000 per 

week ; and in mid-July, just after I had 
Increase in left the Ministry of Munitions to go to 
SSthe War Office, the total weekly output 

during first year ^ ^ ^ tQ Ij 0 2 5 , 65 9 .* These 

figures exclude our purchases from abroad. In com- 
memoration of the passing of the million mark, Sir 
Eric Geddes supplied me with a table, signed by 
himself, showing this remarkable progress, which I 
reproduce here. 

* These figures do not represent the full scale and weight of the 
increase. The most valuable results were in the increased production of 
heavy shell. 









Comparison of Shell Filling. Weeks End!ngSe pt25*l9l5, Jan! 8* ! DISand July 15^10 

a,, -- WeekEnding Week Ending Week Ending & r /. Week Ending Week Ending Week End i 

tarn re. Sept 2 S®/ 9 l 5 . . JanrS®J 9 J 6 July IS® 1916 Nature. Sept 2 S®l 9 lS Jan? S® 1916 July 15 ® B 


ft S 


s 

fi *4 

*3 s 


* 0 
SQ o 
p K) 
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ndmgSept.25919/5, Jan* 8* I9l6andjulyl5?f9l6. 


MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


649 

To show the progress which was achieved by the 
methods we instituted in the Ministry of Munitions, I 
also give the following table which sets out the total 
supplies of filled shell which were forthcoming from 
all sources during the ten months from 1st August, 
1914, to 30th June, 1915, and in the twelve months 
July, 1915, to June, 1916 : — 

Total output of filled shell or complete rounds : — 

Aug. 1914, to July, 1915, to 
June, 1915. June, 1 916. 

Light . . . . 1,877,300 14,748,800 

Medium . . . . 389,000 3,895,800 

Heavy . . . . 26,500 566,500 

Very Heavy . . . . 14,000 288,300 

Total . . . . 2,306,800 19,499,400 

On 6th July, 1916, the day on which I left the 
Ministry of Munitions to become Secretary of State 
for War, I was furnished with a report signed by 
Sir Walter Layton, which stated that : — 

“ A year’s output at the rate prevalent in 
1914- 1915 can now be obtained in the following 
periods : — 

Shell. 18-pdr. Ammunition . . Three weeks 
Field Howitzer ditto . . Two weeks 
Medium Gun and 

Howitzer ditto . . Eleven days 
Heavy Howitzer ditto . . Four days 

The present weekly output in the first three 
classes is practically equivalent to the whole stock 
in existence before the War. There was no stock 

of Vl f amrrmnitirin W?ir 



650 


WAR MEMOIRS 


A statement could be made on similar lines for 
other munitions.” 

I have already shown how, when I took over the 
Ministry of Munitions in June, 1915, the allowance 
of shells per battery was eight rounds per 
Supply, of day (two rounds per gun) . Contrast this 
tmlubattle with the following extract from the diary 
of an Artillery Officer (taken from the 
Royal Artillery Commemoration Book) : — 

“ August 1 8th, 1916. 

The men are very tired, and the layers are 
nearly exhausted, although we have changed them 
as often as possible. 

My guns have already fired nearly 1,000 rounds 
each and are almost too hot to touch. ... At 
three in the morning I got a telephone message to 
say that the remainder of the programme was 
cancelled, and that I was to drop back to my 
normal 400 rounds a day.” 

The same officer, under date 1st August, 1916, 
writes : — 

“ There are 15 batteries altogether. . . . on a 

piece of ground four hundred yards long by two 
hundred wide.” 

Similar progress can be recorded with respect to 
artillery. At the outbreak of the War the total 
number of guns available was 1,902, of 
Gun which 1,573 were light, and 329 were 

production ranked as heavies at that date (i.c., 4.7- 
inch guns and upwards) . In the following 
ten months to 30th June, 1915, there were manufac- 
tured 1,105 fresh guns, 1,01 1 light and 94 heavy. 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 65I 

Between ist July, 1915, and 30th June, 1916, the 
number of guns manufactured was 5,006 — 4,1 12 
light and 894 heavy. The number of guns of 6-inch 
calibre and upwards was multiplied nearly fivefold. 

I have given elsewhere the figures for the notable 
growth in our machine-gun supply in this period. Of 
grenades our output during the year July, 1915,-June, 
I 9 1 ^? was 27,000,000 as compared with 68,000 
produced from August, 1914, to June, 1915. We 
similarly produced 4,279 trench mortars as compared 
with the War Office 312. 

The effect of this artillery can perhaps best be 
understood by the evidence of some German records 
which I will quote. The history of the 27th 
(Wiirttemberg) Division, one of the best divisions 
which fought at the Somme, states : — 

“. • • A culminating point was reached which 
was never again approached. What we experi- 
enced surpassed all previous conception. 
Evidence The enemy’s fire never ceased for an hour. 

German side lt fel1 ni S ht and da Y on the front line and 
tore fearful gaps in the ranks of the de- 
fenders. It fell on the approaches to the front line, 
and made all movement towards the front hell. 
It fell on the rearward trenches and the battery 
positions and smashed men and material in a 
manner never seen before or since. It repeatedly 
reached even the resting battalions behind the 
front, and occasioned there terrible losses. Our 
artillery was powerless against it. ... In the Somme 
fighting of 1916 there was a spirit of heroism which 
was never again found in the division, however 
conspicuous its fighting power remained until the 
end of the War.” 



WAR MEMOIRS 


652 

The history continues that the men of 1918 had 
not the “ temper, the steadfastness and the spirit of 
sacrifice of their predecessors. . . .” 

Captain von Hentig, of the General Staff of the 
Guards Reserve Division, writes : — 

“ The Somme was the muddy grave of the 
German field army, and of the faith in the infalli- 
bility of the German leadership, dug by British 
Industry and its shells. . . 

Captain Hierl, an acute critic of the War, says of the 
Somme : — 

“ The immense material superiority of the enemy 
did not fail to have its psychological effect on the 
German combatants. The enemy commanders 
may put this down to the credit side of their account 
as the profit of their attrition procedure. . . . The 
great enemy superiority in war apparatus and men 
was thus made to pull its weight, whilst the 
superiority of the German leadership and training 
did not get its proper return. ...” 

This evidence from the other side of the battle front 
demonstrates beyond challenge the importance of the 
success achieved by the Ministry of Munitions in 
equipping our forces for battle. 

The figures I have given for the increase of output 
in 1915-16 represent only the first-fruits of the hard 
work put into the organisation of the 
Preparations Ministry of Munitions. But its greatest 
output claim to recognition is due to the fact 

that it was organised with a view to 
expansion if the necessity arose. The business was 
planned from the commencement not to furnish 



MINISTRY OF MUNITIONS 


653 

adequate supplies for one final battle in 1916, but on 
the assumption that the War might last for years, that 
there might be a succession of prolonged fights on a 
great scale and that the demand for munitions of 
every kind would probably increase and not diminish. 
That is why up to the end of the War manufacture 
kept pace with the growing need for more guns, 
more trench mortars, more machine-guns, more rifles, 
more ammunition, more explosives, more tanks, 
and more lorries. 

When we organised our factories and ordered our 
machinery it was on the basis of a demand far beyond 
that which was contemplated by the Military Staffs 
in 1915. I was then accused of megalomania because 
I took this view of the undertaking which was entrusted 
to me. But in 1916, 1917, and 1918, the generals 
were very pleased that the swollen-headed plans of 
1915 had all materialised and that the stocks in hand 
were ready to answer to every call made upon them 
by the soldiers at the front. 

It was a much criticised Ministry. When we had 
hardly begun to pull things together, and to restore 
order out of chaos, all the confusion was 
Early criticism attributed to the new Ministry. “ The 
of the Ministry house that is building is never like the 
house that is built ” and we were blamed 
for all the untidiness, for the mortar and material 
scattered about, for the girder skeleton, the unfilled 
framework, and the unfinished state of the structure. 

When I first went to the Ministry of Munitions 
there was no organisation — when I left it there was 
no better organised Department in Whitehall, and I 
should like any of its critics to name one of the old- 
established Departments which was superior to it in 
all-round efficiency. The organisation of a big 



WAR MEMOIRS 


654 

business from the foundation is not an easy task when 
all the circumstances are favourable. It is none the 
easier when the ground is cumbered with ill-designed, 
badly-constructed and ramshackle buildings thrown 
about at random. It is specially difficult if the old 
directors from whom this part of the business has been 
wrenched, and who are thoroughly unfriendly to the 
new management, still retain an overriding jurisdic- 
tion in vital details. 

That we should have succeeded in spite of these 
difficulties was a triumph for the capable men who 
threw the whole of their energies into the performance 
of their arduous duties. Without their ceaseless toil, 
and their great resourcefulness, achievement would 
have been quite unattainable in the time and under 
the conditions. 

My view of the functions of the head of such a 
concern was that its success would depend upon his 
p • having a clear idea in his own mind as to 

wide hi he the objectives which he should strive to 

Ministry was attain, and a definite plan as to the best 

organised wa y reaching them. After that success 

would depend upon his gift of choosing the right 
persons to direct every branch of the business, upon 
his power of drawing the best service out of them by 
encouragement, stimulation and support ; upon the 
exercise of such a close and constant supervision over 
every detail (without getting lost in a jungle of details) 
as would enable him to discover where things were 
going wrong, and upon his taking the right steps to 
remedy deficiencies when lie found them, and taking 
them in time. 

I claim for my competent staff and for myself, that 
when at a critical moment in our history this crucial 
task devolved upon us, we did not fail our country. 



CHAPTER XX 


ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 


During the first part of the War, I was not depart- 
mentally concerned with our diplomatic relations with 
the Neutral Powers. I had, however, a very definite 
interest in the attitude adopted by the United States 
of America towards the Allies, inasmuch 
A source of as that great country represented the one 
Supply™ important outside source of supply for 
munitions of war — a matter with which, as 
I have already related, I very early concerned myself. 
As a member of the first Cabinet Committee on 
Munitions Supply, I was already in October, 1914, 
promoting arrangements for large orders of munitions 
from the States, and as Chairman of the Munitions 
of War Committee, and later as Minister of Munitions, 
I was responsible for a steadily growing stream of 
supplies from across the Atlantic, which swelled by de- 
grees to considerable dimensions, up to the point when 
we perfected arrangements for manufacture at home. 

During this period, therefore, I had a very special 
incentive to watch the course of our relations with 
America. The maintenance of a good understanding 
with her was not only a necessary condition if our 
munition supplies were to continue uninterrupted, 
but a factor of vital importance in ensuring a just 
and satisfactory settlement of the struggle, whenever 
the hour of peace should strike. 

655 



WAR MEMOIRS 


656 

When a war is in progress, neutral countries are 
often placed in an embarrassing position. Them- 
n ,, r selves at peace with all the world, they 
neutral naturally seek to maintain their normal 

countries in commercial relations with both the 
war-time belligerent parties. In addition, they 
endeavour if possible to improve the shining hour 
by doing an increased and more profitable business, 
by supplying the additional demands created by the 
war at the inflated prices made possible by war’s 
restriction of supplies. But while they thus earn 
greater profits, they are subject to greater hazards 
and less consideration. Nations fighting for their 
lives cannot always pause to observe punctilios. 
Their every action is an act of war, and their attitude 
to neutrals is governed, not by the conventions of 
peace, but by the exigencies of a deadly strife. 

The country which is determined at all costs to 
remain neutral must therefore be prepared to pocket 
its pride and put up with repealed irritations and 
infringements of its interests by the belligerents on 
both sides ; compensating itself for these annoyances 
by the enhanced profits of its war-time trade. Should 
the difficulties of neutrality prove too great, it is left 
with the choice cither of treating the violation of its 
rights by one of the belligerent parties as a casus 
belli, or of taking sides, not on the strength of war- 
time incidents, but rather on its view of the rights 
and wrongs of the principal conflict. Such, briefly 
Pre war stated, was the problem which confronted 
attitude of the the United States of America during the 
U.S.A. to course of the World War. Prior to Arma- 
burope geddon, the firm tradition of the States 

was to hold ulterly aloof from all concern with the 
tangled relations of the Old World — a tradition 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 657 

enshrined in its doctrine of America for Americans, 
and let Europe keep its greedy hand off our Continent. 
In turn, America would leave the rest of the world 
to Europe alone. Up to the date of the Great War 
Americans maintained with ostentatious stiffness this 
traditional attitude. They sought to return to it 
with a snap when they let go their end of the Treaty 
of Versailles. Gradually in Europe, Asia and Poly- 
nesia alike American statesmen have been driven out 
of this position by inexorable facts. 

It is true that Colonel House, President Wilson’s 
alter ego, was keenly interested in international affairs, 
Col House’s anc * visited Europe in the summer of 1914 
interest in in the role of disinterested and benevolent 
preservation adviser, to urge a better understanding 
of peace between everybody and everybody else. 

It is to his credit and that of Mr. Theodore Roosevelt 
that they both understood that the theoretical aloof- 
ness of America no longer had any basis in realities, 
and that she would be intimately affected by any 
European upheaval, whether she professed to ignore 
it or not. The affable Colonel’s visit to Europe was, 
through no fault of his own, fruitless. Wisdom ex- 
pressed in gentle tones could not be heard above the 
roar of the nearing cataract. He found hearty 
sympathy for his ideas in England, a trumpeting 
militarism in Germany and political chaos in France. 
The mass of the American public was as remote in 
its thoughts and interests from these things as though 
they were happenings on another planet. 

Opinion in During the opening stages of the War, 
America during opinion in the United States was Quite as 
the early months overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining 
of the War g rm neutrality towards the European 
struggle as opinion was in Britain three days 



WAR MEMOIRS 


658 

before the declaration of war. With regard to the 
merits of the respective belligerents, the predominant 
opinion in America was supposed by this country 
and France to be pro-Ally, though there was a 
strong pro-German section among the large German- 
American population of the Middle West, and a 
chronic hostility to England amongst the Irish. The 
intellectuals were believed to be pro-Ally. A careful 
sounding of opinion among American Universities 
and Colleges carried out by Sir Gilbert Parker, the 
distinguished Canadian novelist, in October, 1914, 
showed an overwhelming sympathy for the Allies. 
But despite this general tendency, it would be true 
to say that on the whole, opinion in the States was 
neither pro-Ally nor pro-German, but simply and 
solely pro-American. In war, sympathy is a long 
way off support. President Wilson was universally 
acclaimed when in mid-August he made a speech 
calling on the citizens of the United States to observe 
strict neutrality in act and speech, and at that date 
even Mr. Theodore Roosevelt rejoiced that his 
country was geographically able to keep out of the 
fight. An analysis of the American Press made by 
Sir Gilbert Parker, at the end of September, 1914, 
showed that while far more of the leading papers 
were friendly to the Allies than to Germany, the 
majority were definitely neutral, and viewed the 
merits on both sides with a detached impartiality. 

Belgium was thousands of miles away from Illinois, 
German destroyers and submarines at Ostcnd were 
not within a few steam hours of New 
Remoteness York. German guns at Calais could not 
Jiom the conflict block the principal highway to America’s 
powerful ports. German Zeppelins could 
not bomb Washington and kill women and children 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 659 

in their homes. These things were very remote. 
We cannot impute this indifference to callousness. 
An earthquake in Japan with a loss of tens of thousands 
of lives does not occupy as many columns of a British 
newspaper as does a railway accident near Carlisle 
with the loss of a score of lives. 

Apart from this, the moral issues were not so free 
from ambiguity to the American conscience. Many 
Ambiguity of P eo pl e in this country were unreasonably 
the moral issue astonished at this attitude on the part of 
to American America. Filled with anger at Germany’s 
eyei wanton aggression in Belgium, and with 

fear of the threatening monster of Prussian militarism, 
they could not understand how the great Democracy 
of the New World should hesitate for an instant 
about the merits of the issue upon which we had 
drawn our sword, or should fail to ally itself with us 
in defence of liberty and justice. 

But to the onlookers in America, the issue was not 
so simple. On 22nd August, 1914, Colonel House 
wrote to President Wilson : — 

“ The saddest feature of the situation to me is 
that there is no good outcome to look forward to. 
If the Allies win, it means largely the domination 
of Russia on the Continent of Europe ; and if 
Germany wins, it means the unspeakable tyranny 
of militarism for generations to come.” 

Britain and France never quite realised the handi- 
cap to their propaganda in neutral countries which 
was involved in their alliance with the 
Hostility to Czarist regime. America shuddered at 
Britain the idea ox any close association with the 

Government of Russia — brutal, tyrannical 
and corrupt, in fact, rotten to the core — and that 


VOL. II 


1 



66o 


WAR MEMOIRS 


went far to neutralise the horror felt at the Belgian 
tragedy. America also had a large and politically 
important Irish-American population, trained to 
hatred of England as to a religion. Let us be fair. 
Britain had for centuries given cruel cause for this 
rooted animosity, and we had not yet repaired the 
wrong we had burnt into the sensitive and retentive 
Irish soul. Add to this the fact that Americans 
were by long tradition accustomed to think of Britain 
as the despotic monarchy from whose greedy clutch 
the States had wrested themselves free in the heroic 
struggles of the War of Independence. There were 
other considerations which compelled neutrality. 
The German population in America were a highly 
respected, diligent, and peaceable element of the 
community, with characteristics that furnished little 
evidence in support of the legend of Prussian ferocity. 
Moreover, they commanded millions of useful votes, 
which might determine the issue of crucial elections. 
In these circumstances it will be clear that the general 
sympathy of America with the Allied cause was 
bound to be considerably qualified and non-com- 
mittal. Americans might strongly desire to see the 
Allies victorious, but not strongly enough to be 
prepared to endure with patience losses or incon- 
venience to themselves, or risks to their respective 
political parties, as the price of Allied victory. 

In short, America was not bound by treaty commit- 
ments to enter the War on either side. While the 


America's 
interest in 
neutiahly 


predominant opinion (whenever an 
opinion was formed) was that, on balance, 
the Allies were in the right, that verdict 
was too qualified to impose an obligation 


of honour to march with them to and through the 


gates of Hell. Failing such obligation, the issue of 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 66l 


neutrality or participation in the War became one 
purely of relative expediency for America. It was 
her interest to maintain her trade, her prestige, the 
security of her citizens, and to keep her young men 
out of the shambles. She would only be forced to 
fight if fighting was better calculated than neutrality 
to defend these interests. 

It so fell out that while American intellectual 
sympathies were in the main with the Allies, American 
commercial interests were open to more frequent and 
obvious interference by them. Germany’s chief 
power was on land, Britain’s on the sea. Germany’s 
invasion of Belgium, her devastation of France, might 
rouse disinterested wrath in America. But it did 


not touch American pockets. On the other hand, 
Britain’s firm measures to prevent contra- 
Trouble caused band of war from reaching Germany, and 


b blockade UlSh ^ ier wide and constantly widening inter- 
pretation of contraband, caused serious 
inconvenience to American shipping and direct inter- 
ference with American business. Time and time 


again, the friction created by this interference 
generated between the two countries a perilous heat 
which seemed to be within an ace of producing a 


rupture of diplomatic relations. Once or twice the 
language of protest bordered on the minatory. These 
protests undoubtedly introduced a certain element of 
timidity into our blockade, and Germany profited 
by the relaxation. Later on, Lord Robert Cecil 
tightened up our clutch. 

To be weighed against these annoyances was the 
fact that Britain was far and away the wealthiest of 


the belligerents and was able to place in the United 
States — and pay cash for — orders for colossal war 
supplies for herself and her Allies. If we were 



WAR MEMOIRS 


662 

interfering with America’s potential trade with our 
enemies, at least we were providing her with a 
magnificent market in Britain, France, and Russia, 
which stimulated her industries to an unprecedented 
level of activity and profitableness. This fact had its 
influence in holding back the hand of the American 
Government whenever, excited to intense irritation 
by some new incident of the Blockade, it contemplated 
retaliatory measures. 

Throughout 1914 and 1915, until the prospect of 
the Presidential election of 1916 began to loom high 
above the horizon and import a new complication 
of the issues, the story of the relations between 
America and the belligerents is that of a country 
driven backwards and forwards between the two sides 
by an alternation of incidents, any one of which 
might easily have tipped the scales for war, had it 
not been counterpoised by new troubles on the other 
side ; and had it not also been for the stubborn 
determination of President Wilson to keep his country 
out of the fight if he possibly could. 

The opening weeks of the War found American 
opinion, as I have said, strongly on the Allied side. 
Allied We never quite knew where President 

perplexity as Wilson’s real sympathies lay. We felt 
l °Wilson's nt that i n the tremendous struggle which 
attitude was constantly before his eyes, he would 

have been more than human had his heart not been 
engaged on one side or the other, whatever his hand 
might do or his tongue might speak. But his deport- 
ment was so studiously unpleasant to both sides 
that they each suspected him of being antipathetic 
to their own side. We only knew for a fact that the 
President was severe in his judgment of Allied actions, 
and we did not realise that this was due to the fear 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 663 

lest his private sympathies should pervert the strict 
impartiality of attitude which he was imposing on 
himself. 

Very shortly, the use which Britain made of her 
sea-power to prevent supplies reaching the Central 
Powers, even through neutral countries, 
The copper provoked an outcry in America, par- 
dispute ticularly from the powerful Copper Trust. 

Copper was a vital necessity for munitions, 
and we did our best to stop any supplies of it from 
reaching Germany. Had Germany been confined 
to the use of her own ports, this would have been 
quite a simple matter. But she was bordered by 
neutral States — Holland, Scandinavia, and at first 
Italy — and consignments, ostensibly destined for these 
countries, were really being sent for her benefit. And 
the United States were very large producers of copper. 

On 5th October, 1914, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, our 
Ambassador in Washington, wrote : — 

“ The copper interests here are very power- 
ful. . . . We shall have to find some means of 
crippling Krupp without ruining the mining states 
here, who possess the ear of the Secretary of 
State and have a commanding influence in the 
Senate.” 

On 3rd November he wrote : — 

“ We have command of the seas and this is a 
reason why we are likely to fall foul of all the 
neutrals. The American conscience is on our side, 
but the American pocket is being touched. Copper 
and oil are dear to the American heart and the 
export is a matter of great importance. We are 



WAR MEMOIRS 


664 

stopping the export and the consequence is a howl 
which is increasing in volume. We should prob- 
ably do the same. But the howl may become 
very furious soon. . . .” 

Early in November, 1914, in accordance with a 
plan prepared by Mr. Leverton Harris, an agent 
was sent to New York from this country to attempt 
to solve this problem by buying up as much as 
possible of the American stock of copper on condition 
that the producers should undertake to 
Success of sell only to purchasers approved by us. 
British action But this business proposition was not 
successful, for pro-German influences were 
exerted to defeat it. We then proceeded, at Gib- 
raltar and elsewhere, to hold up all copper consign- 
ments to neutral countries until we were satisfied as 
to the bona fides of the consignees. The Governments 
of the neutral countries in Europe came to the aid 
of their manufacturers by prohibiting the export of 
copper, which simplified our release of cargoes to meet 
their bona fide requirements. We then told the 
American copper producers that if they continued to 
sell copper to Germany, we should buy none from 
them ourselves, but should hold up all their European 
consignments. Two of the largest American refining 
companies promptly entered into an agreement with 
us, and before long most of the others were glad to 
come into line. One of the last to come in was the 
great Guggenheim group. Its hand was forced by 
an announcement made, in reply to a question in 
Parliament, that the firms whose consignments were 
safeguarded by agreements with us were welcome to 
announce the fact, so that orders might be placed 
with them. Thereupon Guggenheim cabled their 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 665 


representative in London to sign an agreement with 
the Admiralty. 

By the beginning of March, 1915, we had secured 
control of 95 per cent, of the exportable copper of the 
United States, and the powerful influence of the 
Copper Trust was no longer a menace to good 
relations between us and the States. 

Fortunately for the Allies, American annoyance 
at any action on our part which hampered their 
trade would ere long be counterbalanced by anger at 
some more exasperating deed by the Germans. If 
German i n t ^ ie autumn of 1914 we were holding 
treatment of up neutral vessels and requiring certificates 
neutral of ultimate destination before we would 

shipping release their cargoes, the Germans were 
sowing mines all round the narrow seas, which sank 
neutral shipping without warning, and were brutally 
bombarding the unprotected watering places of 
Scarborough and Whitby. In January, 1915, the 
Germans took the further step of bombing with 
Zeppelins the towns of King’s Lynn and Yarmouth, 
and at the end of that month their submarines began 
a form of attack which was in the end to bring the 
United States into the War, by sinking unarmed 
merchant vessels in the open sea. 

While these acts increased the moral condemnation 


of Germany by American opinion, it remained the 
case that our actions regarding contraband were a 
more frequent irritation. From a well-informed 
Decline of source we learnt in January, 1915, that 
American the United States was growing less in- 

interest in teres ted in the War as a main item of 
the War news: “ The air-raid has been commented 


on in the strongest terms in every paper I have seen, 
but these things no longer excite surprise. I think 



666 


WAR MEMOIRS 


I told you that I had seen signs of the public being 
bored with the War. The proof came last week 
when the earthquake was reported and the War went 
to the second or third page.” And from another 
source we were told : “ There is a lack of proportion 
in the information we have concerning the British 
Navy. We scarcely ever hear of it except when some 
British ship is blown up by a German torpedo, or 
when a British ship holds up an American cargo. 
You can readily see the dangerous psychological effect 
of this. . . . * War news ’ no longer sells. But ‘ in- 
terference with American trade 5 does sell. It sells, 
and it has a certain unfortunate effect upon what I 
call the ‘ headline mind.’ ” 

As to the general sentiment in the Middle West, 
we were told : “ The German Army wins admiration 
for its efficiency and courageous perfor- 
Views in the mance, but sympathy with its purposes 
Middle West or ideals was lost the day it stepped into 
Belgium. The War is deplored as un- 
necessary and preventable, and no one desires 
anything more than a speedy and conclusive peace. 
But it must be conclusive. Peace without definite 
victory would satisfy no one. * This thing has got 
started,’ they say, ‘ so let’s have it finished once for 
all.’ Meanwhile everyone out here is very busy 
with his own affairs.” 

Towards the end of January, 1915, an adroit 
attempt was made to embroil us with America. 

The Dacia, a German merchantman, 
The Dacia laid up in America since July, 1914, was 
incident bought by a German-American, registered 
as an American vessel and sent with a 
cargo of cotton for Bremen, via Rotterdam. We 
made it known that we refused to recognise the 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 667 

transfer of flag, and Germans waited hopefully for 
us to seize an American ship and thus produce a 
storm in the States. The Dacia was duly seized, 
but by the French Navy, and the plot miscarried. 
The French cause was popular in the States, and 
hitherto they had played a minor part in the capture 
of contraband. President Wilson could of course 
protest to France, and did so without avail. But 
his protest did not mark a culmination — perhaps 
critical — of a series of protests, as it would have done 
had Britain been the culprit. 

Germany thereupon proceeded to announce a 
submarine blockade of Britain, and declared she 
would sink every merchant vessel in the 
Germany s seas surrounding these islands after 18th 

ffiST February, 1915, and would not guar- 

antee safety to passengers or crews, even 
of neutral shipping, since British vessels might be 
hoisting neutral flags in these dangerous waters, and 
her submarines would therefore ignore the nationality 
of flags. This called forth a very strong note from 
President Wilson, to which Germany only replied 
that if he would stop all export of munitions to the 
Allies, and take steps to ensure supplies of raw 
materials and food to Germany, they would reconsider 
their attitude. 

Britain replied to the submarine campaign by an 
Order in Council virtually blockading Germany. 
The British We did not actually use the technical 
retort : food term “ Blockade,” as what we announced 

materials was not mere ty or mainly a close m- 

cut off vestment of German ports, but a cutting 

off of supplies for Germany by detaining all vessels 
carrying goods of presumed enemy destination, 
ownership, or origin. This was of course a novel 



WAR MEMOIRS 


668 

though obvious variation of the principle of blockade, 
made necessary by modern progress in transport, 
which turned every neutral harbour on the Continent 
into a potential German port. Naturally the flutter 
of notes backwards and forwards across the Atlantic 
grew denser and intenser. 

During these months. Colonel House was visiting 
the belligerent countries of Europe as the President’s 
emissary, to take soundings as to the possible terms 
of peace. His presence, and the understanding he 
achieved of the practical realities of the situation, 
doubtless helped to ease friction between us and 
America. But his peace efforts were doomed to 
frustration. At that stage of the War, he found in 
Britain a readiness to consider a peace based on 
restoration and indemnity for Belgium, but Germany 
refused to promise restoration, and would not hear 
of indemnity. 

On 7th May, 1915, while Colonel House was in 
London, news came of the sinking of the Lusitania. 
Lusitania That put a sharp end to all possibility of 
sunk : Colonel promoting peace talk between England 
House and Germany. The question of the 

advises war moment became rather whether the 
United Slates themselves could any longer maintain 
their neutrality. The Colonel himself held that they 
could not and should not hold back any longer. He 
wrote on 9th May to President Wilson : — 

“ . . . Our intervention will save, rather than 
increase, the loss of life. 

America has come to the parting of the ways, 
when she must decide whether she stands for 
civilised or uncivilised warfare. We can no longer 
remain neutral spectators. Our action in this 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 669 

crisis will determine the part we will play when 
peace is made, and how far we may influence a 
settlement for the lasting good of humanity. 
We are being weighed in the balance, and our 
position amongst the nations is being assessed by 
mankind.”* 


President Wilson sent a strong note to Germany ; 
but it was a protest, not an ultimatum. The Austrian 
Ambassador at Washington sounded 
President Bryan, the Secretary of State, and got 
to Germany ** the assurance that America did not mean 
to fight. He promptly advised Berlin, 
which was encouraged to be unaccommodating to 
Wilson. The click of the President’s typewriter 
had no deadlier rattle behind it. House, meantime, 
was trying to arrange that Germany would abandon 
her submarine warfare if England ceased to stop food 
supplies for Germany. Sir Edward Grey was pre- 
pared to consider this.f But he never consulted the 
Cabinet as to this proposal. Had he done so they 
would have turned it down emphatically. Whether 
he consulted the Prime Minister before expressing 
his readiness to enter into an arrangement on this 
basis I am not prepared to say. Germany, however, 
stiffened by the reassurance that America would in 
no circumstances fight, refused the proposal, and said 
that she had plenty of food. What she wanted was 
raw materials. Naturally there could be no thought 
of letting these in for her munition manufacturers, 
and the proposal fell through. Had Germany accepted 
Colonel House’s suggestion, the whole course of the 
War might have been changed. There certainly 


* “ Intimate Papers ” of Colonel House. Volume I, page 434. 
t Ibid., page 443. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


670 

would have been no starving population in Germany 
in 1918. That means there would have been no 
revolution in November, 1918, and the War would 
have been prolonged for another year. But apart 
from that, Germany might not have declared that 
indiscriminate sinking of all ships which brought 
America into the War. Once more German military 
arrogance had blundered and by doing so had saved 
us from one of our worst blunders. 

In connection with our blockade policy I should 
like to pay tribute here to the services rendered by 
Lord Robert Lord Robert Cecil in pressing forward 
Cecil’s work in the firm maintenance and full develop- 
organismg ment of our activities in this field. When 
blockade he became Under-Secretary of State for 

Foreign Affairs on 31st May, 1915, the Reprisals 
Order was already in force. Nevertheless, there was 
hesitation in high places about maintaining its 
provisions, as exemplified by Sir Edward Grey’s 
readiness to consider abandoning an essential part 
of it on Colonel House’s suggestion. Such hesitation 
was not shared by Lord Robert Cecil. In Council 
and in public he urged its strict observance. His 
advice was consistently in favour of bold measures. 
His activities in the Foreign Office were directed to 
the same end. Ultimately, in February, 1916, it 
was decided to appoint a Minister of Blockade, with 
Cabinet rank, to co-ordinate the work of all the various 
Committees and Departments dealing with this 
matter in its various aspects. Lord Robert Cecil 
was the obvious choice for this post, and he agreed to 
undertake it — without salary — in addition to his 
work as Under-Secretary to the Foreign Office. He 
was appointed on 23rd February, 1916, and it was 
largely due to him that the great national and 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 671 

international organisation of the blockade weapon 
was tightened so that it became one of the decisive 
factors in our ultimate victory. 

Notes continued to pass between the United States 
and Germany throughout 1915 about the Lusitania. 
That a thousand non-combatant passengers — men, 
women, and children — including over a hundred 
American citizens, should have been thus massacred 
in cold blood was a severe strain on the President’s 
pacifism. He stood it, although Germany repeatedly 
refused his request that she should at least disavow 
the action of her submarine commander. Gerard, 
the American Ambassador in Berlin, wrote to Colonel 
House on ist June that : “ It is the German hope to 
keep the Lusitania matter ‘ jollied along ’ until the 
American people get excited about baseball or a 
new scandal and forget.” President Wilson put the 
best face he could upon the matter by making a 
speech in which he suggested that the American 
people were “ too proud to fight.” He shrank 
from taking the action urged upon him 
Roosevelt's by his principal adviser. Mr. Theodore 
demand for war Roosevelt launched a characteristic attack 
on the President’s inaction : — 

ec Unless we act with immediate decision and 
vigour we shall have failed in the duty demanded 
by humanity at large, and demanded even more 
clearly by the self-respect of the American Re- 
public. . . . 

For many months our Government has preserved 
between right and wrong a neutrality which would 
have excited the emulous admiration of Pontius 
Pilate, the arch- typical neutral of all time . . 

* “ Fear God and Take Your Own Part/* page 353. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


672 

The situation was complicated by the fact that 
while notes were passing about the Lusitania, another 
liner, the Arabic, was also torpedoed 
The sinking of and sunk. Colonel House now wanted 
the Arabic the President to proceed to war without 
further notes, and for a time the situation 
was exceedingly strained. But the German Govern- 
ment promised to instruct their submarine com- 
manders not to sink further liners without warning, 
and after very strong pressure even went so far as to 
proffer a tentative disavowal of the action of the 
submarine commander who sank the Arabic. This 
belated action just — only just — enabled the “ will 
to peace ” of the President to survive the Presidential 
election. 

The situation was not eased by information coming 
to light just at this time, through an indiscretion of 
the Austrian Ambassador, that the 
Gennan plots Austrian Embassy, aided by Von Papen, 
‘factories the German military attache, was plan- 
ning to cripple American munition plants, 
so as to interfere with supplies for the Allies. Von 
Papen and Boy-Ed, the German attaches, and Dumba, 
the Austrian Ambassador, were sent home, but 
President Wilson still kept his temper. The Presiden- 
tial election was drawing nigh, and Wilson was 
determined to stand for re-election as the man who 
kept America out of the War. 

Probably there was no very powerful desire among 
the American people at this stage to join in the fight. 
On 17 th September, 1916, Spring-Rice wrote : “ The 
majority want to make money and not to make 
war.” In November he reported that anti-German 
feeling was growing stronger, together with the view 
that a victory of the Central Powers would be an 



ALLIED RELATIONS WITH AMERICA 673 

immense calamity to the States. But in practice 
this sympathy showed itself rather in a 
Success of greater eagerness to do business with the 

fo^thTAllies than to make war on Germany. 

At the beginning of October we raised a 
loan on the American market to finance purchases of 
supplies. The loan was for 500,000,000 dollars, 
secured on the joint credit of France and Britain, 
in the form of 5 per cent, five-year bonds. In two 
days it was over-subscribed by about 200,000,000 
dollars. As a proof of good will to the Allied cause, 
this was very gratifying. But Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, 
writing on 7th October, 1916, of the success of the 
loan, declared again : “It cannot be too often 
repeated that the American people are determined 
to hold aloof if they possibly can, and that the 
Government cannot take any action of which the 
great mass of the people do not approve.” 

Such, in brief outline, was the course and temper 
of American neutrality prior to the winter of 1916, 
when the re-elected President made his public bid 
for peace, to which I shall have later on to refer. 

But even in the course of these first two years of War, 
President Wilson was continually on the alert for an 
opportunity to intervene and shorten or end the 
conflict. One effort in particular which he made, 
in the winter and early spring of 1915-16, was of 
special interest. As I was called into the discussion 
that followed, it is an essential part of my War 
Memoirs. 



CHAPTER XXI 


PRESIDENT WILSON’S PEACE MOVES 

Several tentative movements were made in neutral 
countries for mediation during the first few weeks 
of the War, but they came to nothing. Whether 
President Wilson could have succeeded in arresting 
the mad plunge of Europe into war, had he intervened 
authoritatively and in time, will always remain a 
matter of conjecture. He made no effort. The 
suddenness with which the negotiations flared up and 
exploded the powder magazine probably took him by 
surprise. In that respect he was not alone. 

When the War broke out, President Wilson made a 
well-intentioned but quite ineffectual gesture. He 

Wilson's letter wrote on August 5th, 1914, to each of the 
to the belligerent monarchs a letter in the 

belligerents following terms : — 

“ Sir, 

As official head of one of the Powers 
signatory to the Hague Convention, I feel it to be 
my privilege and my duty under Article 3 of the 
Convention to say to your Majesty in a spirit of 
most earnest friendship, that I should welcome an 
opportunity to act in the interest of European 
peace, either now or at any time that might be 
thought more suitable as an occasion to serve your 
Majesty and all concerned in a way that would 
afford me lasting cause for gratitude and happiness. 

Woodrow Wilson.” 

674 



president Wilson’s peace moves 675 

While that letter was crossing the Atlantic, the 
Austrians were pressing down on their coveted prey, 
Serbia ; French troops were singing as they swept 
over the frontier into the lost provinces of Alsace and 
Lorraine ; the German General Staff was at last 
putting into effect its darling plan, minutely elabo- 
rated for years past, of an advance through Belgium 
that would encircle and destroy the army of France, 
and bring decisive victory in six weeks. To attempt 
to hold back the momentum of these vast forces with 
an offer of mediation was at that stage as futile as to 
think of arresting the descending blade of the guillotine 
with an appeal for mercy. Where Sir Edward Grey’s 
proposal for a conference, made before war was 
declared, was scarcely heard (it certainly was not 
heeded) in the confusion, the polite and formal plea of 
a comparatively unweaponed America for pause and 
reflection, coming as it did when armies were on 
foreign soil, could serve only to place on record her 
goodwill to all parties alike. 

The replies were not hurried, and when they came 
they were universally discouraging. Having started, 
however reluctantly, the combatant 
The nations nations all meant to fight it out to the 
C °™war ted bitter end. Germany was on the whole 

winning, so her rulers were in no mood for 
peace. France was pulling herself together after an 
inglorious beginning. Britain had barely started, but 
her stubborn spirit had caught a fire which could not 
easily be put out. Austria, in the act of inflicting what 
she thought would be an easy castigation on Serbia, 
had the whip wrenched out of her hand by the 
gallant army of the Serbs, and her flesh stung with the 
shame of a scourging inflicted upon her by the people 
she had despised. She was in a mood to revenge the 

J 


vol. n 



WAR MEMOIRS 


676 

humiliation by overwhelming force. The Russian 
tradition had always been to make a clumsy start. 
The defeat of Tannenberg did not, therefore, dismay 
this loose-limbed but stout-hearted giant. No one 
wanted peace. Every nation engaged in the struggle 
resented the idea of stopping the fight once it had 
begun. There were far fewer pacifists amongst them 
on 1st January, 1915, than on 1st August, 1914. There 
was a deep instinct in the minds of men that this 
conflict had been coming for a long time, and once it 
had begun it was better to get it over and done with. 
The voice of the mediator was, therefore, not heard in 
any land, and his role was everywhere an unpopular 
one. President Wilson’s time for intervention had 
already passed, and it could not be resumed until the 
nations were beginning to feci the strain. 

The message sent in November, 1914, by Mr. 
Thomas Nelson Page, the American Ambassador in 
Rome, to Mr. J. W. Bryan is remarkable, 
Mr- T. N. no t only for its picture of the belligerent 

from S Rome f rame of mind but also for the prophetic 

vision of post-war troubles : — 

“ American Embassy, Rome, 
November 19, 1914. 

[received December 7.] 

... I am conscious here of a strong under- 
current of conviction that when one side or the 
other in the present war prevails, America will 
become the next object of attack, either on the part of 
Germany or of Japan, as the case may be. It seems 
to be considered that the War will not end until 
one or the other party is absolutely discouraged and 
that no tenders of friendly offices will avail before 



president Wilson’s peace moves 677 

that crisis. Also there is frequent expression of the 
thought that even should the War be ended in 
its present status, it would only be a truce until 
the belligerents, more especially Germany, had 
recuperated sufficiently to attack again with better 
success, and that permanency of peace will depend 
on a condition in which absolute disarmament can 
be insisted upon. . . . 

Thomas Nelson Page.” 


At the close of 1915 there was some peace talk 
whispered about. The losses on all sides had been 
beyond anything the students of war had 
Peace whispers ever contemplated. The advantage was 
at end of 1915 s tiU with the Central Powers, but it was 
becoming increasingly clear to them that 
they could not cash their gains without incurring 
further sacrifices even more appalling than those 
which they had already sustained. The great new 
army of the British Empire, well drilled and fully 
equipped, would come into action in its full strength 
for the first time in the impending campaign of 1916. 
Neutral spectators had, therefore, some hope that the 
hour was propitious for taking definite steps towards 
mediation. 

President Wilson was anxious for peace. Apart 
from the fact that his humane instincts were horrified 
by the slaughter and barbarity of the 
War on land and sea, his embarrassments 
as a neutral were increasing and intensify- 
ing each successive month. As I have 
already related, the British were searching his ships 
and the Germans were threatening to sink them. The 
British blockade was interfering daily with American 
commerce. That roused angry resentment in the 


President 
Wilson's 
anxiety for 
peace 



WAR MEMOIRS 


678 

American breast. On the other hand, the German 
counter-measures were an outrage on humanity. 
The reverberations of the War in the American 
Electorate were complicating American politics, and 
the Presidential election was not so far off. There 
was a powerful German vote which resented the toler- 
ance extended by the Administration to the manufac- 
ture of munitions of war for the Allies. There was a 
still more powerful Irish vote which hated Britain. 
Apart from these groups, American sentiment was 
on the whole on the side of the Allies. The wanton 
trampling down of Belgium by the German legions 
was largely responsible for the creation of that opinion. 
War against the Allies was impossible. No Govern- 
ment could have carried the American public into 
such a war. Intervention on the other side would 
also mean a divided nation. The poor President was, 
therefore, harassed and perplexed by a terrible 
dilemma. What would suit him best would be the 
part of peacemaker. It fitted in with his temperament 
as well as with his political difficulties. He therefore 
sent Colonel House from the ark as a dove of peace to 
spy out the waters of the deluge in Europe 
Col. House's and to report to his chief whether there 
peace mission was a sign of subsidence and any peak 
visible on which the harbinger of peace 
could plant her feet. 

In this capacity Colonel House visited France, 
Germany, and Britain with a view to taking soundings 
about the possibility of bringing the War to an end, 
and as to the response which would be accorded to 
any proposal made by President Wilson in that 
direction. He flew from capital to capital. In 
Germany he found no prospect of any readiness to 
consider a peace which would conform to the 



president Wilson’s peace moves 679 

President’s ideals, let alone to the aims of the Allies. 

The furthest he got with von Bethmann- 
Attitude of Hollweg was that Germany might consent 
Germany to relinquish her conquests of Belgium 
and French territory in return for a 
sufficient indemnity. In his highly interesting 
“ Intimate Papers ” he gives a graphic account of the 
American Ambassador’s interview with the German 
Emperor : — 

“ The Kaiser talked of peace and how it should 
be made and by whom, declaring that ‘ I and my 
cousins, George and Nicholas, will make peace 
when the time comes.’ Gerard says to hear him 
talk one would think that the German, English, 
and Russian peoples were so many pawns upon a 
chess-board. He made it clear that mere de- 
mocracies like France and the United States could 
never take part in such a conference. His whole 
attitude was that war was a royal sport, to be 
indulged in by hereditary monarchs and concluded 
at their will. . . 

Colonel House reached Paris with an intensified 
conviction that the German Government would not 
agree to peace terms which even the most moderate 
of Allied statesmen could accept. Thereafter he 
developed the line that any American intervention 
must take the form of a threat to Germany, followed 
if necessary by open hostilities, with a view to shorten- 
ing the War ; and, moreover, that such intervention 
was necessary not only to shorten the duration of the 
conflict, but to ensure that the peace ultimately made 
should be one of justice embodying the ideals of the 

* “ Intimate Papers,” Vol. II, page 139. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


680 

President, rather than one of victorious allies carving 
up their defeated foe. 

To this end. Colonel House urged both in Paris and 
in London that at a suitable moment the Allies should 
House’s pro- accept an offer from the President to call a 
posals to Paris conference of all the belligerents to discuss 
and London : terms on w hich the War might be ended ; 
American it being understood that if terms accept- 
intervention able to Wilson were agreed to by the Allies 
but rejected by Germany, the United States should 
come in on the side of the Allies to compel Germany’s 
agreement. 

It is difficult to come to any clear conclusion as to 
the reception accorded to the House mission in Paris. 
He himself clearly formed a favourable impression of 
the attitude of M. Briand, who was then P rim p 
Minister of France, towards his pacific efforts. But 
M. Briand was one of those pleasant men 
French who take a long time to understand, and 

attitude after a prolonged acquaintance you were 
never quite sure that you knew him 
sufficiently well even then. He was an enigma 
even to his closest friends, and no one ever knew 
what his innermost thoughts were on any subject. 
However, by disposition he was a conciliator. He had 
a greater personal delight in reconciliation than in 
strife. But although inscrutable where his own indi- 
vidual opinions were concerned, there could be no 
doubt as to his sensitiveness to parliamentary opinion. 
And any suspicion of leanings towards pacifism was a 
crime in Paris. M. Clemenceau was a typical repre- 
sentative of the general attitude of the governing 
classes in the French metropolis. As for the French 
peasantry, they had resigned themselves to the 
leadership of Paris, and they were prepared to go 



president Wilson’s peace moves 68i 

through right to the end if those who were in supreme 
charge of the interests of their country felt it was 
necessary for the honour and safety of France to fight 
on. M. Briand could hardly have dragged France 
into a Peace Conference at that date unless he had had 
the most complete assurance that the terms offered 
would be favourable to France and would contain a 
guarantee for her future safety. Any rumour of a 
disposition on his part to countenance such a parley 
would have ensured his immediate downfall. British 
Ministers, therefore, felt that Colonel House’s san- 
guine disposition had misled him into taking too 
hopeful a view of the co-operation of France in an 
endeavour to initiate pourparlers with an enemy whose 
arms, taking the terrain of the War as a whole, were 
triumphant in the East and the West. 

In Britain, the British Cabinet was divided between 
two points of view. It was not so much that there 
were some Members of the Cabinet in 
Divided, views favour of peace and others opposed, as 
in Britain that the majority were still convinced of 
the certainty of ultimate victory, while 
a formidable minority entertained doubts of the 
possibility of success if the War were prolonged 
beyond this year. The leading members of this 
defeatist junta were the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
and the President of the Board of Trade. Their 
pessimism had deepened Sir Edward Grey’s natural 
gloom. Mr. Runciman was anxious as to the effect 
of the submarine campaign upon our sea transport. 
In his opinion our shipping capacity had already been 
strained to the utmost by the demands made upon it 
for the feeding of our population and of our armies, 
and the carriage of essential raw material for ourselves 
and our Allies. A few more thousands of our tonnage 



WAR MEMOIRS 


682 

sunk by the German swordfish that swarmed around 
the approaches to our harbours and we could not 
carry on. Mr. M'Kenna had also serious misgivings 
as to the financial position. He doubted whether it 
would be possible much longer for us to raise the 
funds necessary to enable us to finance essential 
purchases for ourselves and the Allies in countries 
across the sea, at the rate we were then expending our 
reserves on the War. He circulated to the Cabinet in 
September, 1915, two dismal papers from Sir John 
Bradbury and Mr. J. M. Keynes respec- 
Sir John tively. Sir John Bradbury was an excep- 
St" fS tionally able man, with exceptionally 
orthodox ideas about finance and the gold 
standard. He ends an elaborate and discouraging 
review of the financial possibilities as follows : — 

“ It seems clear . . . that unless there is either 
an early and very large reduction of civil and 
military consumption, an increase of production by 
the withdrawal of a part of our forces in the field 
and their return to civil employment or a drastic 
curtailment of credits to Allies, further borrowing 
here will only be possible at the price of such an 
inflation of credit in relation to available com- 
modities as will finally upset the balance of exchange 
and seriously impair our power to purchase either 
munitions or foodstuffs in America.” 

Mr. Keynes was more alarming and much more 
jargonish in his formidable paper. With the help of 
what he hints is an over-sanguine estimate of our 
borrowing possibilities in America we would get 
through to the end of the financial year, i.e., the 31st 
of March, 1916, provided our liabilities were not 
increased by fresh orders (he does not specifically 



president Wilson’s peace moves 683 

mention our orders at the Ministry of Munitions for 
machine tools and rifles), but after that, the Deluge — 
unless peace intervenes. As to our existing commit- 
ments : — 

44 . . . We ought to be able to do this without pro- 
ducing a catastrophe in the current financial year [i.e. up 
to 31st March, 1916], provided peace puts us in 
Pessimism a P os ^ on t° cancel the inflationism immediately 
of afterwards. Otherwise the expenditure of the 

Mr. J. M. succeeding months will rapidly render our 
Keynes difficulties insupportable. This leads us to the 
meaning of 4 inflationism 5 and the consequences of 
depending upon it 

Then comes a professional exposition on the charac- 
ter and inevitability of 44 the catastrophe,” and he 
concludes : — 

44 The alternatives presented to us are, therefore, 
alternatives of degree. If by flinging out our 
resources lavishly we could be sure of finishing the 
War early next spring, I estimate that they might 
be about equal to our needs. If, on the other hand, 
it would be over-sanguine to anticipate this, it must 
be considered whether it is more desirable to 
average our expenditure, or alternatively, to be 
lavish until about next January, to appreciate the 
prospects in front of us somewhat suddenly at about 
that date, and then, having regard to the near 
future, to curtail rigorously, and tell our Allies 
that for the future they must look to themselves. 

It is certain that our present scale of expenditure 
is only possible as a violent temporary spurt to be 
followed by a strong reaction ; that the limitations 
of our resources are in sight ; and that, in the case 



WAR MEMOIRS 


684 

of any expenditure, we must consider not only as 
heretofore, whether it would be useful, but also 
whether we can afford it.” 

Mr. Winston Churchill in one of his amusing out- 
bursts, once said that this country was governed by the 
31st March. Put the British Empire at one end of the 
scale and the 31st March at the other, and the latter 
would win every time. That was Mr. M c Kenna’s 
view. 

Chancellor and President of the Board of Trade 
more than hinted at the possibility of starvation for 
our sea-fed island. Mr. M'Kenna’s nerve was 
shaken by these vaticinations of his chief adviser, 
Mr. J. M. Keynes. The latter was much too mercurial 
and impulsive a counsellor for a great 
An acrobatic emergency. He dashed at conclusions 
economist with acrobatic ease. It made things no 
better that he rushed into opposite con- 
clusions with the same agility. He is an entertaining 
economist whose bright but shallow dissertations on 
fin an ce and political economy, when not taken 
seriously, always provide a source of innocent merri- 
ment to his readers. But the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer, not being specially gifted with a sense of 
humour, sought not amusement but guidance in this 
rather whimsical edition of Walter Bagehot, and thus 
he was led astray at a critical moment. Mr. Keynes 
was for the first time lifted by the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer into the rocking-chair of a pundit, and it 
was thought that his very signature appended to a 
financial document would carry weight. It seems 
rather absurd when now not even his friends — least of 
all his friends — have any longer the slightest faith in 
his judgments on finance. 



president Wilson’s peace moves 685 

Luckily Mr. Bonar Law and I knew well what value 
to attach to any counsel which came from the source 
of the Chancellor’s inspiration and, there- 
Scepticism of f ore , we both treated the fantastic pre- 
l iheory^ neS diction of British bankruptcy “ in the 
spring ” with the measure of respect which 
was due to the volatile soothsayer who was responsible 
for this presage of misfortune. I was still less impressed 
by these prophecies of evil because I knew it was part 
of the campaign which the Treasury were waging 
against my great gun programme. They had 
succeeded in scaring Lord Kitchener. I knew more 
about the resources of credit of this country. Mr. 
Bonar Law urged that American (North and South) 
securities held in this country should be mobilised and 
sold or pledged to pay for purchases overseas. This 
practical suggestion was subsequently adopted and 
all went well. 

When the hour of indicated doom struck and we 
still bought greater quantities than ever of food, raw 
material and munitions from abroad and 
Mr. Keynes were paying for them and our credit was 
%axter >r0 ^ het st ^ high, the date of impending collapse 
was postponed until the autumn. The 
fall of the year and the fall of the British Empire 
would arrive on the scene arm in arm. In his fore- 
casts Mr. Keynes made the same mistake which had 
brought the late Mr. Baxter’s prophecies into dis- 
repute. He had been too definite in the dates for the 
end of the world. Some of these had already passed. 
When the fateful days arrived without any indication 
of the heavens above us being rolled together as a 
scroll, a fresh date further on was chosen. You may 
do that kind of thing once and perhaps twice, but 
repeated failures discredit the prophet. The Cabinet 



686 


WAR MEMOIRS 


as a whole were not, therefore, at this time unduly 
depressed by Mr. M‘Kenna’s pictures of approaching 
famine, because they had ceased to believe in the 
impish Baxter who at the Chancellor’s invitation had 
wandered into the Treasury. 

After Colonel House had put his views before Sir 
Edward Grey and the Prime Minister, the latter 
decided that it would be desirable that other Ministers 
should be brought into consultation. It was therefore 
arranged that on 14th February, 1916, Mr. Asquith, 
Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Balfour and myself 
Dimer with should be invited to meet Colonel House 
Colonel House at dinner at Lord Reading’s house. He 
there placed before us his ideas as to the 
summoning by President Wilson of a conference of all 
the belligerents to discuss peace terms. Colonel 
House has given some account of this important talk 
in his “ Intimate Papers,” but that account is by no 
means complete, and unless the whole purport of the 
conversations is given the public cannot judge the 
reasons for the failure of this peace move. He states 
in his book that at the Reading dinner the terms of an 
acceptable peace were outlined by me, who, “ some- 
what to his surprise and apparently also of Sir Edward 
Grey ” was ready to agree to intervention by the 
President. As the sequel was determined by these 
terms, I propose to set out exactly what my proposal 
was. I was opposed to the summoning of a con- 
ference without some preliminary understanding with 
the President as to the minimum terms 
tfther^h^ t ^ ie Allies were to insist upon with 

procedure his sanction and support. A conference 
without such an agreement would have 
been productive of the most serious consequences to 
the morale of the Allied Countries, in the event of its 



president Wilson’s peace moves 687 

failure. Having regard to the unpropitious military 
situation such a fiasco was quite within the realms of 
probability. In my opinion, therefore, it was un- 
desirable to take such a risk unless we were practically 
assured beforehand that if Germany proved intract- 
able on these terms the U.S.A. would throw in her lot 
with us. 

These terms were acceptable to the Prime Minister, 
Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Balfour, Lord Reading, and 
also to Colonel House. The latter, who 
Colonel House k new President Wilson’s mind better than 
‘conditions an Y living man, was convinced that the 
terms would also meet the President’s 
view of the justice of the case. It is interesting to 
recall these terms in order to show the conditions of 
peace which would have satisfied the British leaders 
at that date. They included the restoration of the 
independence of Belgium and Serbia, and the sur- 
render of Alsace and Lorraine to France, provided 
that the loss of territory thus incurred by Germany 
would be compensated by concessions to her in 
other places outside Europe. There were to be 
adjustments of the frontiers between Italy and Austria 
so as to liberate Italian communities still under the 
Austrian yoke. Russia was to be given an outlet to the 
sea. There were also to be guarantees against 
any future recurrence of such a catastrophe as this 
World War. 

Colonel House promised to cable to President 
Wilson a full report of the proceedings and to obtain 
his assent to the conclusions arrived at before the 
British Government notified their acceptance of 
President Wilson’s proposal. Sir Edward Grey 
insisted that before any final decision was taken the 
Allies should be consulted. 



688 


WAR MEMOIRS 


Why was this conference never summoned ? Who 
was responsible ? Had it come off either Germany 
would have accepted the terms as soon as 
Why no she realised that President Wilson was 
7ummoned WaS committed to their enforcement, or, in 
the event of their rejection, America 
would have come into the War in the spring of 1916, 
instead of 12 months later. The world would have 
been saved a whole year of ruin, havoc and devasta- 
tion. What a difference it would have made ! Was 
the fiasco due to Sir Edward Grey’s reluctance to 
press the idea upon our French Allies, or was it 
attributable to the insertion by President Wilson of 


one fatal word in the gentleman’s agreement suggested 
by Colonel House ? The document as cabled by 
Colonel House definitely committed the President to 
war (subject of course to the assent of Congress) in 
the event of rejection by Germany of a conference 
into which he was prepared to enter with a pledge to 
the Allies of support for minimum terms. The Presi- 
dent in his reply inserted the word 
President “ Probably ” in front of the undertaking. 
<< probably ” Sir Edward Grey’s view was that this 
completely changed the character of the 
proposal, and, therefore, he did not think it worth 
while to communicate the purport of the negotiations 
to the Allies. As far as I can recollect he made no 


effort with President Wilson through Colonel House 
or any other intermediary to restore the position as 
it was left by the Reading dinner conversations. 
The real explanation probably is that President 
Wilson was afraid of public opinion in the U.S.A. 
and Sir Edward Grey was frightened of our Allies. 
The world was once more sacrificed to the timidity 
of statesmanship. This great and at one time 



president Wilson’s peace moves 689 


promising plan thus fell through. The bloody cam- 
paigns of 1916 were fought without any decision. 
Hundreds of thousands of brave young men fell on 
the scarred heights of Verdun, on the muddy plateau 
above the Somme, in the foothills of the Istrian and 
Tyrolese Alps, in the forests and swamps of Russia, 
on the slopes of the Carpathians, and in the torrid 
regions of Mesopotamia and Central Africa. Every 
military staff in all the armies at every stage of the 
sanguinary road was convinced that victory was 
awaiting their strategy just round the next corner. 
Politicians must not be allowed to snatch triumph 
out of their grasp just as it was all but within reach. 
Peace discussions were therefore postponed until the 
deafening sound of the great guns abated. 

Looking back on this period in the light of the 
information which came later to hand, it is clear that 


America’s 
entry would 
have shortened 
the War 


if Colonel House’s plan had been acted 
upon, the most that could have been hoped 
from such a conference as President 
Wilson could then have assembled would 


have been the earlier entry of the United States into 
the struggle, and the shortening of the War which 
that event would have brought about. Nothing is 
more certain than that Germany in 1916 would have 


insisted on terms which would have been entirely 


incompatible with those that the President’s Vicar- 
General in the outside world, Colonel House, had 


agreed upon with us. A secret dispatch from Wash- 
ington in the spring of 1917 advised us that when 
Bernstorff handed to the State Depart- 
Germanfs ment of the U.S.A. the note informing 
peace terms them of Germany’s intention to embark 
upon unrestricted submarine warfare, he 
made simultaneously a confidential communication to 



WAR MEMOIRS 


690 

Colonel House, putting in writing Germany’s peace 
terms. These were : — 

1 . The practical occupation of Belgium ; 

2. The straightening out of their French frontier 
in order to include the French iron fields ; 

3. Indemnity from France ; 

4. Full compensation for all commercial losses. 


It will be seen that these terms were not only 
entirely at variance with those which had been 
suggested by America, but were obviously utterly 
inaccep table to the Allies. They were in fact terms 
which assumed Germany to be victorious, and no 


peace could possibly have been based on them. 

Whether the declaration of these terms by Germany 
at a conference would have brought President Wilson 


Wilson's 

resolute 

pacifism 


into the War on the Allied side in 1916 
is perhaps slightly less certain. The 
President was at that time resolutely 
pacifist, and it is possible that Colonel 


House credited him with a greater readiness to 


participate in the struggle than he would actually 


have shown when it came to the test. While he 


could not have accepted the German terms, he might 
at that stage have contented himself with trying to 
balance them against the proposals of the Allies, 
and urge the via media of an inacceptable and incon- 
clusive peace. Count Bernstorff noted in the course 
of a report on 6th September, 1916, that : “ Wilson 
regards it as in the interest of America that neither 
of the combatants should gain a decisive victory.” 
President Wilson fought his election in the late 


autumn on his policy of keeping America out of the 
War. On this he won. 



president Wilson’s peace moves 691 

In this connection I am tempted to quote an 
interesting letter which Theodore Roosevelt wrote 
after the American Presidential Election in November, 
igi6, to Lord Lee of Fareham. At that time Roose- 
velt was an energetic supporter of the Allied cause, 
and Lee had suggested that he should visit England 
and lecture on the issues of the War. Writing to 
decline the invitation, he hints — what was in fact 
the case — that his uncompromising support of the 
Allied cause had lost him the sympathy of both 
the political parties in the States to such an extent 
that no one, least of all Wilson, would dare to 
associate himself with a policy publicly advocated 
by him. His letter was in the following terms : — 

“ Sagamore Hill, 

November 10th, 1916. 

Dear Arthur, 

I have carefully considered your letter (no 
letter from Grey has come). My dear fellow, I 
hate not to do anything you ask. But 
Colonel ^ m y judgment is most strongly and un- 
fetter Velt * qualifiedly that it would be a grave error 
for me to do so in this case. I have 
consulted Whitridge and Bacon, both of whom 
are at this moment more interested in the success 
of the Allies than in any internal American 
questions, and they agree with me — Whitridge 
feeling at least as strongly as I do in the matter. 
Wilson has probably been elected, and if Hughes 
were elected it would only slightly alter the case 
so far as this particular proposal is concerned. 
For a number of months to come the American 
public would positively resent any conduct on my 
part which could be construed as indicating my 



WAR MEMOIRS 


presuming to give advice about, or an expression 
of, American opinion. Wilson would certainly 
endeavour to do exactly the opposite to what he 
thought I had indicated ; even Hughes, if elected, 
would resent any seeming desire of the British and 
French to consult me ; and my coming over would 
give every greedy sensation-monger in the Yellow 
Press, and even in the Pale Saffron Press, the cue 
to advertise the fact, with statements and inferences 
grotesquely false but very mischievous. Moreover, 
those whom I spoke to on your side of the War 
could not but feel that my words carry weight, 
and to this extent I cannot be guilty of deception 
towards them, for my words carry no weight, 
and it would be unwise to pay any heed to what 
I said as representing the American people. At 
the moment I am as completely out of sympathy 
with the American people as I would have been 
out of sympathy with the English people in 1910 
or the French people in 1904. The Wilson 
“ policies ” are those of the Democrats, who have 
just polled a bare plurality of the popular vote. 

Mr. Wilson would like to antagonise 
America every proposition I make. The Re- 
°abold policy publicans by an overwhelming majority 
nominated Hughes precisely because he 
did not represent my views ; they thought it wise 
to dodge the issues I thought it vital to raise. No 
other man of national importance (for Root really 
exerted not the slightest weight in the campaign 
and only spoke once to a half-empty hall) took the 
stand I took — which I took in every speech. I 
was the only man who raised my voice about 
Wilson’s iniquity in suffering the German sub- 
marines to do as they did on our coast. 



president Wilson’s peace moves 693 

If I went abroad I could give you no advice of 
even the slightest worth. I would diminish my 
already almost imperceptible influence here at 
home. I would expose myself to bitter male- 
fications— no matter how much one condemns 
one’s own country, one cannot stand condemnation 
of it by promiscuous outsiders ( you may say anything 
and I will say ditto to it). I would like to visit the 
front at the head of an American division of 12 
regiments like my Rough Riders— but not otherwise. 

Always yours, 

Theodore Roosevelt. 

P.S.— The amiable Bryce steadily exerts 
what influence he has here on behalf of the 
Pacifist crowd, who are really the tepid enemies 
of the Allies.” 

This rather bitter and disillusioned letter shows the 
doubts and uncertainties with which the strongest 
American leader of his time viewed the prospect of 
his country taking a really bold and decided course 
in its dealings with the combatant nations of Europe. 
Later on, history was to afford another proof that the 
bold course is the best one. 



CHAPTER XXII 


THE IRISH REBELLION 

The long-drawn-out and wearisome tragedy of the 
relations between Great Britain and Ireland played 
an important part in the World War. 
Part played by There can be little doubt that the ex- 
tnWmldWar pectation on the Continent that Britain 
had for the moment sunk so deep in the 
quagmires of the Irish bog as to be unable to extricate 
her feet in time to march eastward, was one of the 
considerations which encouraged Germany to 
guarantee Austria unconditional support in her 
Serbian adventure. The continued unrest in Ireland, 
and the political differences between statesmen here 
as to the proper method of dealing with them, im- 
ported an undercurrent of divided counsel and party 
feeling into our deliberations about our principal 
task. And ultimately, the rebellion of Easter, 1916, 
quickly though it was suppressed, interposed a 
deplorable distraction and left an aftermath of bitter- 
ness and danger which hampered us throughout the 
remainder of the War and for years afterwards. 

Nor can it be forgotten that the Irish situation 
formed an abiding ground of antagonism to Great 
Britain amongst the large and politically powerful 
Irish-American section in the United States. Had 
there been no Irish grievance, it is by no means 
improbable that America would have come much 

6q4 



THE IRISH REBELLION 695 

earlier into the War, and by so much shortened its 
duration. 

I do not propose to enter on a discussion of the 
Irish question. But in considering the events of 
1916, and the part I was called on to play in bringing 
about some alleviation of the trouble, it is important 
to bear in mind the background against which those 
events were set. 

In the early summer of 1914, in view of the fact 
that the Liberal Government had succeeded after a 
three years’ fight in carrying through a 

Threats of 

measure of Home Rule, the Protestant 
fumrrZ a ofi 9 r4 North had reached a state of incipient 
rebellion, and was arming and drilling 
for resistance to the decision of the Imperial Parlia- 
ment. The Catholic South had begun to copy these 
tactics, and raise National Volunteers to match the 
Ulster Volunteers of the North. There was a gun- 
running at Larne to supply Ulster with guns from 
Germany ; and then one at Howth to supply Southern 
Ireland. The paradox of the situation was that 
Ulster’s rebellion was acclaimed by a powerful 
section of British opinion as loyalty, while Southern 
Ireland’s preparations to defend the decision of the 
Imperial Parliament were denounced as sedition. 

At the outbreak of the Great War, the Home Rule 
Act was suspended in order to allay the threatened 
rebellion of Ulster, backed by the Unionist 
Home Rule Act party in Great Britain, and to procure a 
S theWar° r measure of unity, in face of the common 
danger. For the moment this action 
achieved its purpose, but it may be doubted whether 
in the long run it proved profitable. For Southern 
Ireland, seeing its hopes dashed at the moment when 
they were about to be realised, at first sulked in 



WAR MEMOIRS 


696 

resentment and soon became a mass of seething 
disaffection ; and, after an interlude of strife and 
suffering of a deplorable character, it had to be 
pacified by concessions far more extensive than 
would have satisfied it in 1914. 

The irritation of Southern Ireland was exacerbated 
by a number of needless follies. When the World 
War broke out, its spokesman, Mr. 
War Office Redmond, pledged its full support to 
tactlessness Britain in the conflict, and heartily en- 
couraged the efforts to recruit its young 
men for the army. But with extraordinary tactless- 
ness, old officers were let loose on Munster, Connaught 
and Leinster to lure men to the colours to the strains 
of “ God Save the King.” Both the tune and the 
tone were anathema in those parts, and roused every 
instinct of sedition. I relate further on, in my 
sketch of Lord Kitchener, how he approved the 
embroidery of the Red Hand of Ulster on the banner 
of the northern division, but banned the South Irish 
Harp on the southern. The slap in the face which 
this curious procedure administered to Southern Ire- 
land stamped out every spark of kindling enthusiasm 
there, and caused a serious set-back to recruiting. 

Throughout 1915 and early 1916, seditious move- 
ments grew in strength. The Irish Volunteers, a 
body openly formed to enforce the Sinn 
Growth of Fein policy of complete independence 
sedition f or Ireland, drilled publicly and rapidly 
recruited their numbers. Funds came 
to them from America, with leaflets designed to 
increase disaffection. In Dublin especially the note 
of rebellion was everywhere to be heard. Full 
information of these developments was supplied to 
the Irish Secretary, Mr. Augustine Birrell, but he. 



THE IRISH REBELLION 697 

wisely or unwisely, refused to sanction any drastic 
action to suppress the movement. He was content 
to hope and pray that matters would not come to a 
head till the War was over — after which the coming 
into force of the postponed Home Rule Act would 
solve the difficulty. 

Admittedly the problem was an awkward one for 
statesmanship. How could action be taken against 
the Irish Volunteers unless corresponding 
Difficiihie s action were also taken against the Ulster 

statesmanship Volunteers, who were also armed to resist 
the Government and to oppose an Act 
now on the Statute Book ? How could we defend 
the rights of Belgium and in the same breath coerce 
Ireland for arming to secure for herself a measure of 
independence which the majority of the House of 
Commons had admitted to be just ? How could we 
resort to coercion in Ireland — unless events made it 
inevitable — and maintain with America the friendly 
relations which were essential to our success in the 
War ? There seemed plenty of excellent reasons for 
doing nothing. There always are. So nothing was done. 

In April, 1916, the inevitable happened. En- 
couraged by Germany and the Irish-Americans, the 
Sinn Fein leaders in Dublin decided to bring matters 
to a head by an open rebellion. A ship was to come 
over from Germany to Ireland, bringing the Irish 
revolutionary leader, Sir Roger Casement, and an 
outbreak was timed to take effect on Easter Day, 
23rd April, two days following his arrival. 

Sir Roger Casement failed to turn up 
The Easter in Ireland on the 21st, and on the 
rebellion following day the news appeared that he 
and the ship which bore him had been 
captured by the British. Notices were hastily 



WAR MEMOIRS 


sent out by the Irish Volunteer headquarters to 
postpone the Sunday arrangements. But on Easter 
Monday, 24th April, a rising occurred in Dublin 
and some parts of the country. 

The provincial disturbances were small and easily 
suppressed. The Dublin outbreak was far more 
serious, and for a time the Irish capital was held by 
the forces of revolt. Troops were hastily summoned, 
martial law proclaimed, and in a couple of days the 
rising had been quelled, not without bloodshed. 
Several of the rebellious leaders were tried by court 
martial and shot. 

Obviously matters could not be allowed to rest 
there, and after going into the matter carefully, Mr. 

Asquith went over to Dublin to examine 
Mr. Asquith the situation on the spot. Martial law 
visits Ireland W as still in force, and the three prin- 
cipal officers of the Crown — the Lord 
Lieutenant, Lord Wimborne, the Chief Secretary for 
Ireland, Mr. Birrell, and his Under-Secretary, Sir 
Matthew Nathan — had all resigned their posts. 

On his return, Mr. Asquith approached me with 
the suggestion that I should take up the task of trying 
to negotiate a settlement with the Irish 
I am asked to revolutionary leaders. My sympathy with 
Settlement their cause was known. On the other 
hand, I had been recently very much 
detached from the Irish developments, as I had been 
fully immersed in my task of equipping our armies 
witb munitions, specially in view of the coming 
campaign on the Somme. 

The request came at an awkward moment. For 
some time I had been urging on our leaders a measure 
of closer co-ordination with our Russian Ally, and 
had at last got them to agree to a practical step in 



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Facsimile of the letter written by 
Mr. Asquith which induced Mr. 
Lloyd George to abandon his 
proposed visit to Russia with 




THE IRISH REBELLION 


this direction. Lord Kitchener was to proceed to 
Russia via Archangel to consult with the military 
authorities there about closer co-operation 
My plan for j n th e field, and it had been arranged 
upset an mSlt that I should go with him to find out for 
myself the truth about the appalling 
shortage of equipment of which we had heard, and 
see in what way the Ministry of Munitions could best 
help to remedy it. These were matters in which I 
was for the moment far more closely interested than 
I was in the pitiable and rather squalid tragedy which 
had overtaken our lack of policy in Ireland. 

But my plans were upset by Mr. Asquith’s proposal. 
It was conveyed to me in a letter which I reproduce 
in facsimile, the terms of which were as follows : — 

“ io, Downing Street, 

Whitehall, S.W. 

Secret. 22nd May, 1916. 

My dear Lloyd George, 

I hope you may see your way to take up Ireland; 
Mr. at any rate for a short time. It is a 

Asquith's unique opportunity and there is no one else 
letter that ^ cou jfi fi 0 so muc h to bring about a 

life permanent solution. 

Yours very sincerely, 

H. H. Asquith.” 


For me at least this letter has a peculiar interest, 
for it saved my life ! Much against my own in- 
clination, I decided that I could not refuse Mr. 
Asquith’s request, so I had to tell Lord Kitchener 
that I could not accompany him on his voyage, and 
I asked him to do his best to find out for me the 
munition position there and the way in which he 



WAR MEMOIRS 


700 

thought the British Munitions Ministry could render 
any help in the equipment of the Russian Armies. 
Even while Mr. Asquith was penning his letter, an 
obscure German vessel was steaming across the North 
Sea towards the cold northern waters around the 
Orkneys, bearing a mine which it was presently to 
loose at a venture off the Scottish coast in the hope 
of sinking some vessel from the Grand Fleet cruising 
around these wind-swept Scottish islands. A fortnight 
later that mine struck the Hampshire with the 
renowned and almost legendary figure of our British 
Minister of War aboard. But for this letter, I should 
have been with him and shared his fate. This 
escape, at least, I owe to Ireland. 

On 125th May, Mr. Asquith announced in the House 
of Commons that I had undertaken to devote my 
time and energies to seeking a solution 
The of the Irish situation, and he explained 

n begun tWnS that my decision was the outcome of the 
unanimous request of all my colleagues 
in the Government. I had already begun to consult 
with the political leaders of both the Irish Nationalist 
and the Ulster Unionist parties. The negotiations 
were conducted at the Ministry of Munitions. The 
Nationalists were represented by Mr. John Redmond, 
Mr. John Dillon, Mr. T. P. O’Connor and Mr. 
Devlin. Ulster was represented by Sir Edward 
Carson and Mr. James Craig. 

Redmond was not only a great orator but possessed 
elements of statesmanship of a high order. The fact 
that he was given no chance to apply his 
Personalities qualities in the rebuilding of his native 

Tishlladers land is . one of the myriad tragedies of 
Irish history. Devlin has all the charm, 
wit and eloquence of Irishmen at their best. To 



THE IRISH REBELLION 701 

these graces and powers he added fundamental 
shrewdness and sagacity. Of Carson — one of the 
most remarkable products of Irish soil — I speak later 
on. Craig (now Lord Craigavon, the Irish Premier) 
possesses all the gifts of an American political boss 
of the nineteenth century. T. P. O’Connor had a 
much wider experience of the world than his 
colleagues and that made him more tolerant 
and accommodating as a negotiator. Redmond, 
O’Connor, Devlin, Carson and Craig displayed a 
genuine anxiety to reach a settlement. Dillon was 
difficult. He had the temperament and mental 
equipment of the fanatic. He always found it 
hard to accommodate his ideas to the tyranny of 
facts. In private he was genial, pleasant and gentle 
of speech. In public he was a scold. In negotiation 
he was inclined to be truculent and unyielding. His 
stubbornness over comparatively trivial details helped 
to wreck the Buckingham Palace negotiations just 
before the War. When he ultimately gave assent to 
the terms reached in these negotiations he did so 
with a mental reservation, and his rigid and niggling 
interpretation of the arrangement arrived at proved 
to be fatal later on, for it made it impossible for 
Redmond and Devlin to meet Unionist misgiving 
by even the slightest appearance of concession. 

After a discussion I laid before them a series of 
proposals. These proposals were : — 

1. To bring the Home Rule Act into immediate 
operation ; 

Summary 2. To introduce at once an Amending 
of my Bill, as a strictly War Emergency Act to 

proposals cover only the period of the War and a 

short specified interval after it ; 



702 


WAR MEMOIRS 


3. During that period the Irish members to 
remain at Westminster in their full numbers ; 

4. During this war emergency period six Ulster 
counties to be left as at present under the Imperial 
Government ; 

5. Immediately after the War an Imperial 
Conference of representatives from all the Dominions 
of the Empire to be held to consider the future 
government of the Empire, including the question 
of the Government of Ireland ; 

6. Immediately after this Conference, and during 
the interval provided for by the War Emergency 
Act, the permanent settlement of all the great 
outstanding problems, such as the permanent 
position of the exempted counties, the question of 
finance, and other problems, which cannot be 
dealt with during the War, would be proceeded 
with. 


The above is an abbreviated summary of my pro- 
posals, which in their full form extended to fourteen 
clauses. Sir Edward Carson and Mr. Redmond 
promptly went over to Ireland to consult with their 
respective followers about the scheme. Despite the 
fact that it contained proposals most 
The settlement unpalatable to each of the disputing 
accepted— factions in Ireland, both sides agreed to 
accept it, and to do their best to work 


it loyally. 

I wish the story could end there. But it cannot. 

The plan which held out such promise for 
a settlement of the ancient grievance of 
Ireland, and which was accepted by both 
parties in Ireland itself, was thereafter 
deliberately smashed by extremists on both sides. 


and smashed 



THE IRISH REBELLION 703 

My first warning of this opposition came in the shape 
of a memorandum sent to me on nth June, 1916, 
by a prominent Unionist member of the Cabinet — 
the day before my scheme was accepted without 
opposition by the Ulster Unionist Council, and a 
week before it was also unanimously approved by a 
gathering of Nationalists at Belfast. The memoran- 
dum was as follows : — 

“ Information reaches me from both England 
and Ireland, North and South, that there is no 
disposition to come to a settlement, that 
the line taken by the leading Unionists, 
as the result of their interviews in London, 
is that the Unionist Party in Ireland are 
being driven by the Prime Minister and Minister 
of Munitions into accepting a situation which they 
know to be morally wrong and wrong politically, 
that the Nationalist Party are sullen and hostile 
and have no intention of abandoning their policy 
and programme whatever may be the decision of 
their leaders. 

At the same time I hear the gravest accounts of 
the condition of Ireland. If one half of what I 
have heard is true it seems to me to be quite clear 
that this is not the moment to embark upon any 
political experiment. The situation is very different 
from what I believed it to be when we first dis- 
cussed this question, far graver and more serious, 
and unless I am wholly misinformed I don’t think 
it would be possible for me to give my assent to 
any agreement including the adoption of Home 
Rule, the more so as I have excellent authority 
for the opinion I hold very strongly that, whatever 
may be said or written, the U.S.A. will not 


Memo- 
randum 
by Tory 
Minister 



WAR MEMOIRS 


704 

interfere with the supply of munitions or other 
supplies.” 

This unexpected communication by one of my own 
Cabinet colleagues, who had been a party to the 
decision authorising me to carry out the negotiations, 
and who had talked over with me my scheme before 
I finally submitted it to the leaders of Irish opinion, 
was characteristic of the type of bitter partisan 
hostility which the prospect of a settlement of the 
Irish trouble called forth from extremists who would 
rather see no settlement at all than one which did 
not fully conform with their ideas. On 23rd June 
— the very day on which final approval of the pro- 
posals was recorded by a representative Conference 
of the Ulster Nationalists — a manifesto 
Manifesto of denouncing it was issued by five Unionist 
the five peers Peers — Lords Balfour of Burleigh, Cromer, 
Halsbury, Midleton and Salisbury. Two 
days later Lord Selborne, the President of the Board 
of Agriculture, resigned from the Cabinet as a protest 
against the scheme. 

Lord Lansdowne, the veteran Tory leader, fired 
the next shot. On 28th June I received the following 
note from Mr. Asquith : — 

“ 10, Downing Street, 

Whitehall, S.W. 

28th June, 1916. 

My dear Lloyd George, 

Please look at enclosed which has just come 
from Lansdowne. 

Yours, 

H. H. A.” 


The enclosure was the following letter : 



THE IRISH REBELLION 


705 


“ Lansdowne House, 

Berkeley Square, W. 

28th June, 1916. 

My dear Asquith, 

You will, I am sure, have noted that my 
consent to the postponement of further discussion 
as to the Irish settlement was given with 
Lord Lans- considerable reluctance and not without 
litter S misgivings. I agreed, not because I was 
convinced that further inquiry was likely 
to produce satisfactory results, but because it 
seemed to me that, having regard to the extreme 
gravity of the situation, no suggestion which gave us 
breathing time ought to be put aside. 

The discussion towards the close was hurried, 
and I am not sure that we were ad diem as to the 
scope of the enquiry. I may, therefore, perhaps 
be allowed to make my own views clear. 

What we want to know is, not merely whether 
under a Nationalist Government, Sir John Max- 
well, with his 40,000 men, will be able to put 
down another Sinn Fein rebellion, or whether our 
military and naval resources would be sufficient 
to prevent a German-Irish landing. The question 
seems rather to be whether, with a Nationalist 
executive, it would be possible to deal effectively 
and promptiy with domestic disorder, e.g., with 
sporadic but organised disturbances, occurring 
simultaneously all over the country. Could we 
deal with them as effectively and as promptly as 
we could if they were to occur now ? 

Another point which it seems to me requires to 
be cleared up is this. Do Messrs. Redmond and 
Devlin understand that, if a Nationalist Govern- 
ment is set up, we shall still make use of the Defence 



WAR MEMOIRS 


706 

of the Realm Acts, and that their suggestion that 
under the new dispensation the ordinary law will 
suffice cannot be entertained ? 

And do they understand that Mr. Devlin’s 
promise of an immediate amnesty for the persons 
who are now imprisoned owing to the part which 
they took in the recent rebellion is not one which 
can be entertained ? 

I understand that you advised the S.W. Unionists 
yesterday to formulate their demands as to the 
safeguards which they considered indispensable. 

Would it be possible to press them to put in a 
statement of their requirements, and, if we find 
that they are reasonable, could the Nationalist 
leaders be required to accept them as one of the 
conditions of settlement? 

Believe me yours sincerely, 

Lansdowne.” 

On 10th July Mr. Asquith made a statement in 
the House of Commons in which he set out the main 
features of the agreement which had been reached. 

The following night Lord Lansdowne 
Lord. Lans- spoke in the House of Lords about the 
downe’s speech proposals, in terms which Mr. Redmond 
characterised as “ a gross insult to Ireland 
... a declaration of war on the Irish people, and 
the announcement of a policy of coercion.” 

On 17th July a meeting was held at the Carlton 
Club of Conservative members of both houses of the 
Imperial Parliament, at which an “ Im- 
Carlton Club perial Unionist Association ” was formed 
meeting to “ watch negotiations as to the Irish 

question between the Government and 
the Nationalist Party.” This Association proceeded 



THE IRISH REBELLION 707 

to adopt a resolution calling for stern measures of 
repression in Ireland, and opposing any idea of 
immediate Home Rule. In conformity with the 
wishes of their followers, the Unionist members of 
the Coalition Cabinet insisted on serious modifications 
in the terms which had been agreed between me 
and the Irish leaders, when a Bill was being drafted 
to carry them into law. 

This situation was exposed by Mr. Redmond on 
24th July, when he raised the question on a motion 
for adjournment of the House of 
The agreement Commons. Sir Edward Carson, placated 
wrecked by the proposed exclusion of the six 

counties from the scheme, urged strongly 
that a settlement should be made with the South. 
But the other Conservative members of the Cabinet 
were obdurate, and mangled the terms which I had 
originally put forward until Mr. Redmond was no 
longer willing to accept them. 

The matter was concluded by Mr. Asquith’s 
announcement in the House of Commons on 31st July 
that Mr. H. E. Duke, the member of 
Return to Parliament for Exeter, was to be appointed 
status quo Chief Secretary for Ireland. With this 
step we reverted to the old and unsatis- 
factory system of control, of which the Royal Com- 
mission on the Rebellion of Ireland had already 
stated in its report, issued on 26th June and published 
on 3rd July, 1916, that : — 

cc If the Irish system of government be regarded 
as a whole, it is anomalous in quiet times, and 
almost unworkable in times of crisis.” 

The revival of that “ anomalous ” and cc almost 
unworkable ” system led to the persistent growth of 



WAR MEMOIRS 


708 

further disaffection, culminating in the chaos of the 
immediate post-war years, and the ultimate settlement 
of the problem on lines which involved far bigger 
concessions to Southern Ireland than would have 
been made in the scheme I had proposed. The last 
word has not yet been spoken in this unhappy feud 
that Britain has inherited from a foreign foe, who, 
having conquered England first, then proceeded to 
annex Ireland. 



CHAPTER XXIII 


THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 


Apart from the proposals I had placed before the 
Liberal and Conservative leaders in 1910 for a 
National Militia, no statesman had ever contemplated 


A big army 
not originally 
contemplated 


that the military contribution of this 
country to a European war should exceed 
the limits of our normal regular army. 
Our ideas were embodied in the Ex- 


peditionary Force created by Mr. Haldane. After 
the declaration of war an appeal was made for 100,000 
men. Their main use was intended to be as units 
for filling gaps in the ranks. It was only when the 
numbers who volunteered reached a figure which 
was beyond the highest hopes of enthusiasts that the 
Cabinet and Parliament widened their view of the 


part we were destined to play on the battlefields of 
Armageddon. 

We had always visualised Britain playing her 
traditional role in Continental wars. Our Navy 
would keep the seas for the Allies. Our wealth 
would help them to finance their foreign purchases. Our 
Army would play a subordinate part in the struggle. 

But why was not Conscription adopted from the 
moment the Cabinet decided to raise an army on 
the Continental scale ? Obviously it would have 
provided the most effective method for organising the 
man-power of this country. 


709 



WAR MEMOIRS 


710 

To the British people the idea was unfamiliar, and 
we move slowly in these islands. Bred on a soil for 
centuries inviolate, we were accustomed 
British dislike to send abroad only small, professional 
of conscription armies, the ranks of which, in so far as 
they were British, could be filled by the 
recruiting sergeant on a voluntary basis, with the 
allurement of uniform and the King’s shilling. Our 
national defence had been the fleet, which requires 
far fewer men than does an army, and for whose 
needs in the darkest moments of the Napoleonic 
struggle, the Press-gang— long since passed into the 
limbo of forgotten evils — had troubled only the sea- 
port towns and their vicinity. 

Not only were we unused to the idea of universal 
and compulsory national service for war ; we also had 
a strong traditional objection to the creation of large 
armed forces, as potential instruments of tyranny and 
an infringement of personal liberty ; and, moreover, 
among wide sections of the nation there was a 
tendency to look down on the common soldier’s 
vocation. 

Besides, in the early days, few conceived that the 
War would be a long-drawn-out affair. It was 
surmised that no nation could sustain war on the 
modern scale for more than a short time. Pacifist 
and militarist writers agreed about that. “ Over by 
Christmas ” was the popular slogan, which was used 
to excuse the corresponding cry, “ Business as 
usual.” 

For these reasons it was thought by all those who 
had the supreme responsibility of interpreting public 
opinion that it would have been impossible at the 
outset of the War to carry through a scheme for the 
mobilisation of the whole country, such as was 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 


711 

adopted in France. And to add to these negative 
arguments against such a procedure, there was the 
positive fact that recruits during the first 
Early success months were pouring in, on a voluntary 

recruiting^ basis, far more rapidly than the military 
authorities could handle them. In the 
first three months of the War, 900,000 new recruits 
were enlisted, at an average of 300,000 a month, 
in addition to the reservists recalled to the 
Colours and the Territorials already enlisted. The 
army authorities had neither barracks in which to 
house these men, uniforms in which to clothe them, 
nor weapons with which to drill and train them. 
Far from needing to adopt special measures to secure 
men for the forces, we were driven to raise and stiffen 
the physical standard for recruits, in order to check 
this unmanageable spate. 

As time passed, however, a series of developments 
occurred to modify the situation. 

The military authorities, for their part, improvised 
by the time the first rush of recruits was over, a 
technique for handling supplies of men on 
Change in this unprecedented scale. The stream 
the position itself dwindled by the end of the year 

to an average of 30,000 a week. 

Already before the close of 1914, it was becoming 
clear that the unregulated process of voluntary 
recruiting had swept into the Army large numbers 
of men who were vitally necessary in the workshops, 
for the production of munitions of war and in other 
civilian avocations essential even in war. Many of 
them, from their skill, intelligence, and experience, 
were pivotal men and irreplaceable. Efforts were 
made to get some of them back, but the salvage 
operations were not very successful. The obvious 



WAR MEMOIRS 


712 

lesson was that if the War were not to be bungled 
and lost, our resources of man-power must be more 
intelligendy applied. 

The War had not ended by Christmas. On the 
contrary, it was settling down into a long-drawn-out 
struggle, which would demand from us 
Prospect of not only a far bigger military force on 
a long war the Continent and elsewhere than had 
at first been expected, but would require 
a continuous stream of fresh men to replace casualties 
and keep the armies up to strength. 

As the magnitude of the struggle, and its life-and- 
death importance for us, was borne in upon the 
nation, the popular antipathy to military 
Voluntary service died away, and was replaced by 
mad?qmt°e mes a healthy impatience at the spectacle of 
sturdy young men “ skrimshanking ” 
at home while fathers of families were in the 
trenches. 

These developments weakened the case for per- 
sistence in the voluntary system, and helped to 
prepare men’s minds for its abandonment when 
eventually it proved incapable of furnishing the Army 
with an adequate supply of fresh recruits. 

Not the least of the difficulties which had to be 
overcome before conscription was eventually adopted, 
was the hostility engendered by its ad- 
Difficulttes vocates. These were associated before 
°party feeling the War in the popular mind with 
extreme Jingoism, and in consequence 
opposition to any suggestion of national military 
service had become an article of faith with some 
Liberals and Socialists. An agitation for conscription 
was begun early in the struggle from the same quarters, 
which kept alive the feud and gave it the semblance 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 713 

of a party issue. It would have been far easier for 
the Government to introduce national service at an 
early date, if the matter had not taken on such a 
violently controversial colour, so that its adoption 
looked like a Chauvinist triumph. 

My own attitude to this question has never been 
based on considerations of political orthodoxy. Long 
before the War I had formed the opinion 
My own that there was much to be said in favour 
attitude of some system of national training, and 
of universal liability to military service 
for national defence. I have told how I advanced 
this suggestion when talking with the German 
Ambassador years before the War, and how the 
matter was also discussed as a practical proposition 
with the leaders of the Conservative Party by the 
Liberal Government in 1910. 

Looking backward, there is no doubt at all that 
we should have been able to organise the nation for 
war far more effectively in 1914, and bring the 
conflict to a successful issue far more quickly and 
economically, if at the very outset we had mobilised 
the whole nation — its man-power, money, materials 
and brains — on a war footing and bent all our 
resources to the task of victory on rational and 
systematic lines. Towards the end, something 
approaching this condition was in fact reached, but 
there had intervened a long and deplorably ex- 
travagant prelude of waste and hesitation. But a 
majority of the Cabinet opposed conscription not 
only as inexpedient, but because at that time they 
were strongly antagonistic to it on principle, and 
there was no pressure from the Conservative opposition 
to apply conscription. 

A decision having been reached, with something 



714 WAR MEMOIRS 

like national unity, to rely as long as possible upon 
Attempts to t '* ie v °l untar Y principle, every effort was 
ivoik the made to stimulate its successful working. 
voluntary At first, recruiting meetings, posters, 
system literature, and other forms of popular 

appeal were employed. The recruiting crusade was 
well organised. The services of expert propagandists, 
political agents, advertising agents, and public 
speakers, lay and clerical, were requisitioned, and 
their combined work in agitation and enlistment was 
a triumphant success. By degrees, other more 
systematic approaches to the manhood of the nation 
were improvised, and only after these repeated 
promptings and combings proved unavailing to 
maintain our supply of recruits did we turn of 
necessity to compulsory service. 

The first of these systematic steps was the “ House- 
holders’ Return,” organised early in November, 1914, 
by the Parliamentary Recruiting Com- 
“ Householders' mittee. This was a return of men eligible 
return ” and willing to serve, and was secured 

by means of forms sent to every house- 
holder in the Kingdom, with a covering letter signed 
by Messrs. Asquith, Bonar Law, and Arthur Hender- 
son, the leaders of the three political parties, appealing 
to every eligible man to hold himself ready to enlist 
in the forces of the Crown. 

This scheme, reinforced by the appeals of poster 
and public meeting, helped to maintain the steady 
flow of recruits well into 1915. At the beginning of 
the year, on 8th January, 1915, when conscription 
was being debated in the House of Lords, the official 
attitude of the Government at that time was stated 
by Lord Crewe in the following phrase : “ We do 
not regard the possibility of compulsion as being 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 715 

within the landscape, as we now see it.” More than 
three months later, on 20th April, I myself stated in 
reply to a question in the House of Commons that : 
“ The Government are not of opinion that there is 
any ground for thinking that the War would be more 
successfully prosecuted by means of conscription.” 
Both of these statements as to the Government’s 
attitude were determined by the fact that as yet the 
voluntary system was continuing to yield as adequate 
a flow of recruits as could be absorbed by our training 
and equipping facilities at that date. 

That the attitude of some of us on this issue was 
purely realist, and not doctrinaire, is illustrated by 
a weighty pronouncement which Lord Haldane made 
in the course of the debate on 8th January, 1915, to 
which I have already referred. After declaring that 
hitherto the voluntary system was proving adequate, 
and showed no signs of breaking down, he added : — 

“. . . By the Common Law of this country it is 
the duty of every subject of the Realm to assist 
Lord the Sovereign in repelling the invasion of 
Haldane on its shores and in defence of the Realm. 
the Common That is a duty which rests on no Statute, 

Law position hut ig inherent 

in the Constitution of 
the country. It has been laid down . . . that 
any subject at a time of emergency may be asked 
to give himself and his property for the defence 
of the nation. Therefore compulsory service is 
not foreign to the Constitution of this country. 
Given a great national emergency I think it is your 
duty to resort to it. I can conceive a state of 
things in which we might resort to it. ... At a 
time of national necessity every other consideration 
must yield to national interest, and we should bar 



WAR MEMOIRS 


716 

nothing in the way of principle if it should become 

necessary.” 

This statement was of importance, not only for its 
value as a summary of the Common Law position 
with regard to compulsory national service, but as 
showing that Lord Haldane himself and others like- 
minded in the Cabinet were approaching the issue 
purely on a basis of practical expediency, and held 
no theoretic objection or prejudice against its adop- 
tion. I may also refer here to the statement made 
by me at Manchester on 3rd June, which I have 
already quoted in my account of the Ministry of 
Munitions, where I emphasised that there was 
nothing anti-democratic in conscription ; on the 
contrary, every great democracy had resorted to it 
in times of national danger as a fit and proper 
democratic weapon for self-defence ; and if necessity 
arose we ought without hesitation to apply the same 
weapon ourselves in this present conflict. 

As a matter of fact, I had become painfully aware, 
long before I actually became principally responsible 
for creating a Ministry of Munitions, that the hap- 
hazard results of the voluntary system in a national 
emergency of this magnitude were leading to deplor- 
able waste and mismanagement of our available 
man-power. I was eager to press forward some 
scheme for a more systematic co-ordina- 
National tion of these resources, and one of the 

registration fx rs t acts of the new Cabinet formed by 

Mr. Asquith at the end of May, 1915, 
when he established the first Coalition Government, 
was to instruct Mr. Walter Long to draft a Bill for 
the setting up of a National Register. The aim of 
this Register was twofold. By providing a complete 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 717 


record of the number and distribution of men at 
different age levels throughout the country it would 
enable us to calculate our available resources of men 
for military service, and also inform us what supplies 
of men were available for production of munitions. 

Some time was lost in discussion of the points 
raised, but ultimately on 5th July the National 
Registration Bill was laid before Parliament and 
carried by a large majority. Opposition to it, based 
mainly on the presumption that it was a preliminary 
to conscription, came from a small group of Liberal 
and Labour Members, and, of course, from Messrs. 
MacDonald and Snowden, who throughout the War 
persistently opposed every effort to secure recruits 
for the national defence. Indeed, three months 
earlier, the Independent Labour Party, of which 
Mr. Ramsay MacDonald was the leading light, had 
carried in their Norwich Conference a resolution 
censuring the official Labour Party for its work on 
behalf of recruiting. 

The returns obtained by the National Register 
showed that there were about five million men of 


Results of 

national 

registration 


military age in Great Britain who were 
not already serving with the Forces. Of 
these, there were, of course, a considerable 
number physically unfit for military ser- 


vice, and, further, a number in “ barred ” occupations 
who were held non-recruitable because indispensable 
to the maintenance of national industry and in 


particular of munitions. It was estimated that Great 
Britain contained a residue of 1,700,000 to 1,800,000 


fit men available as recruits not yet serving with the 


Forces. This figure was proved later on to be an 
under-estimate of our reserves of man-power. 

While this register was being compiled, a Cabinet 



7 1 8 WAR MEMOIRS 

Committee on our national resources in men and 
Findings of money had carried out in August, 1915, 
Cabinet an investigation into the situation, and in 

Committee in a Report dated 2nd September, 1915, it 
August, igi$ pointed out that voluntary recruiting was 
not enabling us to make a military effort comparable 
to the resources of the country. Lord Kitchener 
was aiming at an army of 70 divisions in all theatres 
by the latter part of 1916. The Committee held that 
“ a ioo-division army would bear a truer relation 
both to our dangers and to the exertions of our 
Allies.” After making all allowance for our naval, 
financial, and industrial contributions, “ it cannot be 
claimed that an army of 70 divisions represents our 
true proportionate contribution of men to the Allied 
line of battle.” 

Taking the 70-division scheme, however, as the 
standard to be reached, the Committee showed that 
present methods would be insufficient. In addition 
to the Regular reserves and Territorial forces mobilised 
at the beginning of the War, the fresh recruits accepted 
and passed into the Army in 13 months totalled 
1,888,000. “ The recruiting records for the last six 

months, show an average yield of 20,000 a week, 
resulting in an effective yield to our military forces 
of probably 19,000 men.” Lord Kitchener was 
asking for at least 30,000 a week, a figure which a 
month later he raised to 35,000. “ Even the yield 

of 20,000 a week can only be maintained by repeated 
canvassing of individuals and by every form of 
social, and in some cases of economic, pressure upon 
all classes of men (except munition workers) from 
17 to 45, whether married or single, whether usefully 
employed or not, and whether or not they can be 
spared from their trade or district.” 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 719 

The Committee reported the evidence it had 
received in statements to it by the President of the 
Board of Trade, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
Lord Kitchener, and myself. From its record of my 
own evidence I cull the following extracts : — 

Asked by the Committee what form of compulsion 
the Minister of Munitions considered necessary. 
My evidence “ Mr - Uo Y d George said he would take 
before the the same powers exactly as were taken in 
Cabinet France. He would make everybody be- 
Committee tween cer t a in ages liable to serve in the 
Army at home or abroad, and only during the 
duration of the War. With this general and basic 
authority ‘ you could work the rest all right.’ ” 
And in my concluding remarks I am reported 
as saying : — 

“You will not get through without some measure 
of military compulsion or compulsion for military 
service. The longer you delay the nearer you will 
be to disaster. I am certain you cannot get 
through without it. I do not believe, for instance, 
that you can keep your armies at the front without 
it, unless you are going deliberately to cut their 
numbers down to a figure which will be inadequate, 
and which is known to be inadequate in advance. 
The number of men you should put at the front 
does not depend on us in the least. It is going 
to depend on the Germans and what the Germans 
are going to do during the next three months in 
Russia. If they succeed in putting the Russians 
out of action during 1916 as a great offensive force, 
for us simply to keep 70 divisions at the front is 
suicide.* Not only that, it is murder, because to 
send a number of men who are obviously 

* In 1918 we had 89 divisions including Dominion, etc., troops. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


720 

inadequate is just murdering our own countrymen 

without attaining any purpose at all. . . 

The President of the Board of Trade, Mr. 
Runciman, argued to the Committee that on the 
basis of the statistics he had at his disposal 
Mr. Runci- there would, after leaving a sufficient 
man’s view number of men in industry, be less than 
half the number available for the Army 
which Lord Kitchener considered indispensable to 
maintain his 70 divisions, and not more than half 
of these could be secured by voluntary recruiting. 
The Committee felt that this argument “ would 
appear to lead directly, if unconsciously, to compul- 
sory military service ” (of which Mr. Runciman was 
a leading opponent). But they did not agree with 
his sweeping exclusion by whole classes of large 
numbers of potential recruits from his calculations. 

The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
Mr. M c Kenna, was to the effect that Britain could 
Mr not afford to carry on her financial aid 

M‘Kenna’s to her Allies and at the same time main- 

finantial tain an army of 70 divisions in the 

objections field. 

One or other of the two tasks we might compass, 
but not both. The Committee found his arguments 
ingenious but unconvincing, and reminded the 

Cabinet that “ whereas a few months ago the possi- 
bility of raising a substantial loan in the United 
States was scouted altogether, and whereas a few 
weeks ago we were assured that £20,000,000 was 
the utmost limit, the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
now hopes to borrow £100,000,000 sterling from 
this quarter during the present year, and to repeat 
the operation in a subsequent year.” 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 721 

Lord Kitchener told the Committee that “ it 
would be his duty to ask Parliament before the end 
Lord of the year for a Bill giving him com- 

Kitchener pulsory powers.” He added, however, 
declares for that he regretted the raising of the question 
compulsion G f com p U i sor y service at the present time, 
because he had intended to choose his own time for 
rushing it on the country as a non-party measure of 
military emergency, whereas it was now being revived 
as a party issue. Before deciding on his scheme for 
compulsion he wanted to see the results of the 
National Registration. 

The Committee concluded in their report dated 
2nd September, 1915, that “ the men are available 
for the 70-divisions army, but the number cannot be 
obtained on a voluntary basis.” They posed as 
questions for the Cabinet : — 


“ First : Whether the 70-divisions scheme is to 
be cut down to the limits which can be supplied 


Questions 
posed by the 
Committee 


by voluntary enlistment, or whether it 
is to be carried out by compulsory 
measures. 

Secondly : Assuming that the 70- 


divisions scheme is to be carried out and that 


compulsion is to be used, whether a decision should 


be taken now or some time later in the year.” 


At this time the Cabinet was broadly divided into 
three sections on the question of conscription. There 
was the group of those who had come to 
Divisions in regard a measure of compulsory national 
the Cabinet service as vitally necessary for the success- 
ful prosecution of the War, and in conse- 
quence were anxious to bring it in with the smallest 
possible delay. At the other extreme stood those who 



WAR MEMOIRS 


722 

through principle or prejudice were as strongly 
opposed to it, and prepared to fight it to the last 
ditch. Between them were some, who were not 
opposed in principle, and admitted that we might 
have to resort to compulsion, but were loath to admit 
the need for so radical a change of system until it was 
proved to be unavoidable, and only then if they were 
sure it would command general approval by the mass 
of the people. They anticipated that any attempt 
to carry and enforce compulsory universal service 
would excite such opposition as to make the proposal 
unworkable. 

On 8th October, 1915, Lord Kitchener laid before 
the Cabinet a memorandum on “ Recruiting for the 
Lord. Army,” which began with the ominous 
Kitchener’s statement : — 
scheme 

The voluntary system, as at present 
administered, fails to produce the number of 
recruits required to maintain the armies in the 
field.” 

He proposed that a scheme of conscription by ballot 
should be introduced, based on the returns of the 
National Register. Each district should be expected 
to furnish a quota of recruits in accordance with the 
numbers of men available within the area, as shown by 
the Register. If voluntary recruiting failed to produce 
the full quota, the balance would be obtained by a 
ballot of the eligible men not yet enlisted. 

This scheme was, however, severely criticised as 
clumsy and unworkable, and it was not further 
proceeded with. It was recognised that if the voluntary 
system could not be continued the alternative must be 
a national measure of compulsory service. 

The opponents of this argued in the Cabinet and 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 


outside that conscription was impracticable because 
the volunteers already enlisted would be unwilling 
to serve alongside pressed men, and while a separation 
of conscript and volunteer armies was unworkable, 
their mingling would be disastrous. Lord Gurzon 
took the trouble to have extensive enquiries made 
from officers and men of all ranks in France on this 
question, and the quite unanimous verdict 
Men at the returned was that these fears were without 
conscription foundation. The army in the field felt 
strongly that those at home who would 
not come out otherwise should be fetched, and while 
it was suggested that the conscripts might at first have 
to put up with a certain measure of chaff and ragging, 
this would soon pass, and the difference in their 
conditions of enlistment be forgotten. 

Actually, of course, this was what took place when 
conscription was put into force. Here again it turned 
out that those who raised imaginary objections to a 
firm policy were flinching at shadows. Our bane 
throughout those early periods of the War was the 
incurable tendency of a number of people in high 
places to argue that measures vitally necessary for the 
success of our effort could not, for some reason or 
other, be taken. Thus we were told that the outside 
firms could not learn to make munitions ; that the 
finances of the country could not stand the strain of 
our total effort ; that the men needed for our Army 
could not be spared from industry ; that gunners could 
not be trained to operate our programme of big 
guns ; that the country would not stand con- 
scription ; that volunteers would not fight beside 
pressed men ; and so on. Every one of these argu- 
ments was falsified by the event. Unhappily, each 
one of these objections served for a greater or less time 


VOL. II 


M 



WAR MEMOIRS 


724 

to hold up and paralyse the efforts we should have 
been making to win the War. The advice of these 
prophets of the impossible cost us months and years 
of prolonged warfare, and hundreds of thousands of 
British lives. 

In deference to the objections of the anti-conscrip- 
tionists, and to the hesitations of the middle group of 
the Cabinet, one final effort was made. 
The Derby in the form of the Derby Scheme, to 
scheme galvanise the voluntary system into re- 

newed vigour. It was generally recognised, 
both in the Cabinet and in the country, that if this 
failed, conscription would be inevitable. 

The Derby Scheme owes its name to the fact that 
Lord Derby, although for many years a strong sup- 
porter of the introduction of Universal Military 
Service, consented to become Director of Recruiting 
and to carry through a last canvass of the country’s 
man-power, in order to give the Voluntary system the 
utmost opportunity of furnishing the men needed for 
the Army. He was appointed on 5th October, 1915, 
and the post carried, at his request, no pay and no 
military rank. 

The authorship of the plan which he set himself to 
administer has not hitherto been made public. 

The main feature of the Derby Scheme was a 
personal canvass of every man in the Kingdom 
between the ages of 18 and 41, working on the basis 
of the National Register. Each man was asked to 
attest — to pledge himself to join up when called for — 
subject to the undertaking that all attested men would 
be divided into two classes, the single and the married, 
and each of these into 23 groups according to age ; 
that the military authorities would call the men up by 
class and group as wanted for the Army, beginning 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 72j 

with the younger single men, and would call up none 
of the married men till all the single men had been 
summoned to the colours. 

The married men were encouraged to put down 
their names in the light of an assurance that not only 
would they be left at home till the single 
Pledges given m en had all been called in, but that if the 
men* marru single men did not attest in adequate 
numbers the married men would not be 
bound by their attestation pledge. This was stated by 
Mr. Asquith in a speech he delivered in the House of 
Commons on 2nd November, 1915 : — 

“ I am told by Lord Derby that there is some 
doubt among the married men who are now being 
asked to enlist as to whether they may not be called 
upon to serve, having enlisted, while younger and 
unmarried men are holding back and not doing 
their duty. Let them disabuse themselves of that 
notion at once. So far as I am concerned, I would 
certainly say that the obligation of the married men 
to enlist is an obligation which ought not to be 
enforced, and ought not to be held binding on them 
unless and until we can obtain, I hope by voluntary 
effort, but if it were needed, and as a last resort by 
other means, as I have stated, the unmarried men.” 

This position was rendered still more definite and 
explicit by correspondence between Lord Derby and 
Mr. Asquith, which confirmed the pledge that no 
attested married men should be called up unless and 
until the unmarried men had been recruited volun- 
tarily or conscripted by Act of Parliament. 

Every possible effort was made to ensure the full 
success of the Derby Scheme. His Majesty the King 
wrote a special appeal : “To My People,” supporting 



WAR MEMOIRS 


the scheme, which was issued on 23rd October. The 
instructions to the local Recruiting Committees as to 
carrying out the canvass were jointly considered, 
approved and signed by Lord Derby, by the Chairman 
of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, and by 
Mr. Arthur Henderson, Chairman of the Labour 
Recruiting Committee. The closing day for the 
canvass, originally fixed as November 30th, was 
extended to December 15th. 

The result was rather what might have been 
anticipated. Married men attested in considerable 
numbers, secure in the assurance that 
Unsatisfactory they would not be expected to fulfil their 

" Derby canvass Promise unless and until all the single 
men had been called up. The single 
men attested much less generally. Out of 2,179,231 
single men of military age not enlisted before 23rd 
October, 1915, the number presenting themselves 
under the Derby Scheme, and enlisted, attested or 
medically rejected, was 1,150,000, leaving 1,029,231, 
or nearly half the total, outside the scheme. Of those 
who put down their names, so many were either the 
medically unfit or “ starred ” men — men employed 
in jobs from which it was held that in the national 
interest they could not be spared for the Army — 
that Lord Derby estimated the net number of single 
men he would actually get for the Army through 
his scheme would be only 343,386 out of the total of 
2,179,231 in the country. 

In face of these figures, it was obviously impossible 
to pretend that Mr. Asquith’s pledge to the married 
men had been fulfilled. Over a million single men 
had refused to attest, and the policy of recruiting them 
compulsorily was the inevitable sequel. As regards 
popular support for such a policy, all the attested 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 


727 

married men were naturally insistent on it. They 
protested that it would be a breach of the promise 
made to them to summon them to the colours while 
so many unmarried men were left at home. 

Accordingly, on 5 th January, 1916, after much 
heated discussion in the Cabinet, the first definite 
Fi rs t step in m easure of conscription was introduced, 
conscription : when Mr. Asquith laid before Parliament 
single men a Military Service Bill to compel the 
called up attestation of all unmarried men, and 
widowers without children or dependents, between 
the ages of 18 and 41. Defending the Bill against the 
objections of anti-conscriptionists inside and outside 
the Government, he urged that it was necessary in 
redemption of the pledge he had given to Lord Derby 
— a pledge which he certainly considered to be within 
the limits and upon the general line of policy which 
had been agreed upon by the Cabinet. He was him- 
self of the opinion that no case had been made out 
for general compulsion, and he thought the Bill would 
be sincerely supported by those who either on principle 
or — as in his case — on the ground of expediency were 
opposed to compulsion. 

This line of argument failed to convince some of his 
opponents. Sir John Simon resigned from the 
Government rather then support con- 
Resignation of scription in any form, and rallied about 
Sir John Simon three dozen other Liberal members into 
an opposition to attack the measure. 

Sir John Simon, speaking on 5th January, 1916, in 
the debate on the Military Service Bill, declared that 
his opposition to any measure of conscription was one 
of fundamental principle, and he added that there 
were other members of the Government who had 
not resigned whose views on the matter were 



WAR MEMOIRS 


728 

indistinguishable from his own. The reference was, of 
course, recognised as applying to Mr. M'Kenna and 
Mr. Runciman, who had both opposed the measure 
strongly in the Cabinet. They did not, however, 
carry their principles to the point of resigning. When 
it came to the direct issue they based their objection, 
not on the fundamental principle with which Sir John 
Simon credited them, but on the argument that we 
could not spare from our national industries as many 
men as would be taken into the Army through con- 
scription, nor afford to keep them under arms when 
we had got them. During the days immediately prior 
to the introduction of the measure it was thought that 
they also might resign if they could not get the Bill so 
modified as to limit and reduce the numbers liable 
to be called up under it. 

Mr. Redmond and his Irish Nationalists opposed 
the Bill on its first introduction, but when they knew 
definitely that Ireland would be excluded from its 
scope they withdrew their opposition. The reason for 
the exclusion of Ireland was that the Bill was intended 
to implement the pledge given in connection with the 
Derby Scheme, and this scheme had not been worked 
in Ireland. 

Mr. Arthur Henderson and the Labour Party were 
placed in a rather difficult position by a resolution of 
the Trades Unions at their Bristol Con- 
Reassurances ference on 5th January condemning the 
to Labour Government’s proposals. Mr. Asquith 
was, however, able to give Mr. Henderson 
official assurances that nothing in the nature of 
industrial conscription was contained in or implied by 
the Bill, and in consequence Mr. Henderson spoke 
and voted in support of the Second Reading. A 
minority of the Labour Party, led by Messrs. Ramsay 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 729 

MacDonald, Snowden, and Thomas, opposed the 
measure. 

Carried through all its stages by overwhelming 
majorities, the Bill became law on 27th January, 1916. 
At midnight on 1st March all single men who had 
not already joined up were automatically reckoned as 
enlisted in His Majesty’s forces for the period of the 
War. The single men attested under the Derby 
scheme had already been all called up, and a first call 
was now made on the attested married men, of whom 
the groups aged 19 to 27 were summoned to the 
colours. 

So ended the first round. But the issue could not 
rest there. Forces were at work which, with a march 
The second as inevitable as destiny, pressed the 
round : protests nation forward into a complete system of 
by older compulsory service. 

married men With the advance of the spring of 1 9 1 6 
there came a call from the military authorities for 
more recruits. This meant summoning the older 
groups of attested married men. But at the rumour 
of this a violent agitation broke out. These fathers of 
families declared that before they were called for, a 
much closer comb-out ought to be made of the single 
men, very many of whom were still at home, exempted 
from military service because they were in starred 
occupations. Further, it was insisted that the younger 
unattested married men ought to be called up 
before their elders were sent to the trenches. And the 
older men, with serious responsibilities for children, 
for houses, for businesses, ought to have some arrange- 
ments made to relieve them of their financial difficul- 
ties — leases, mortgages, and so on — before they were 
taken for the Army. 

Fierce and long were the debates in the Cabinet on 



730 WAR MEMOIRS 

this issue. The calling up of the older classes of married 
men was postponed while the new phase 
Cabinet of the problem was being studied. Mr. 
dissensions Asquith promised that on 18th April he 
would make a statement about recruiting, 
but on that day he had to announce a postponement 
because of Cabinet disagreements ; and he 
followed this on the 19th by announcing a further 
postponement, as disagreement in the Cabinet was 
so serious as to threaten the break-up of the 
Government. He adjourned the House of Commons 
till 25th April, on which date a secret session of the 
House was held to thrash out the problem. 

The existing shortage of men for the Army was 
proving itself serious, and the methods so far available 
Man-power for securing new recruits were proving 
shortage : insufficient. A month previously, on 21st 

Robertson’? March, 1916, the Chief of the Imperial 
warning General Staff, Sir William Robertson, 
had submitted a memorandum in which he stated 
that : — 

“ ... As regards personnel we are not nowin an 
appreciably better position for making that ‘ maxi- 
mum effort 5 . . . than we were when I raised the 
question nearly three months ago. At the present 
time the infantry serving abroad is 78,000 below its 
establishment ; the 13 Territorial Divisions at 
home are also deficient of 50,000 men. . . . Of 
the 193,891 men called up under the Military 
Service Act no fewer than 57,416 have failed to 
appear. ...” 

A note by the Army Council on 15th April, 1916, 
showed that the estimated deficit would on 30th June 
be 179,000 men, and that while as yet there were 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 73I 

only 52 divisions abroad instead of the intended 
62, there was a deficit of 66,000 men in their 
establishment. 

At the Secret Session of Parliament on 25 th April 
the situation was passed under review, and the Prime 
Minister put forward the Government 
Secret sessions proposals to deal with it. These were 
of Parliament officially announced afterwards to include 
the extension of service of time-expired 
men, transfer of recruits from territorial to regular 
units, prompt enlistment of men whose exemption 
certificates had expired, and recruitment of all youths 
as they reached the age of 18. Further efforts were 
also proposed to enlist unattested married men, and if 
in a month’s time 50,000 of these were not forthcoming 
and 15,000 a week thereafter, then compulsion would 
be resorted to. 

A second secret session was held on 26th April, and 
on the following day Mr. Walter Long introduced a 
Bill embodying the Government’s proposals ; but it 
was so adversely criticised that Mr. Asquith withdrew 
it. There was by now a quite general impatience with 
any further paltering or half-measures, which Mr. 
Asquith, with his usual good sense, clearly recognised. 
On 2nd May he announced that the Government 
would bring in a measure to impose 
Universal general and immediate compulsory mili- 
^enacted SerV * Ce tary service. This was introduced on the 
following day, and on 25th May it received 
the Royal Assent. The opposition to it was of quite a 
trivial nature. Sir John Simon’s band of non-co- 
operators had sunk to 27, and Mr. Ramsay 
MacDonald’s Labour group to 10. 

I was in charge of the measure on its second reading 
in the House of Commons, and speaking on that 



WAR MEMOIRS 


732 

occasion I challenged the appeal to principle made by 

its opponents, in the following passage : — 

‘ e I have waited for this great overriding principle 
and I have not heard it yet. Is this Bill inconsistent 
My speech in w i t * 1 the principles of either Liberalism or 
the House on democracy? Is it inconsistent with the 
principles at principles of democracy that the State 
slake should demand the services and help of 
every man to defend its life when it is at stake ? 
There is not and never has been a country yet faced 
with a great military peril that has ever saved 
itself without resort to compulsion. Never. It is 
true of autocracies, it is even more true of demo- 
cracies. Where is the principle ? I have a personal 
interest in finding out, because I have been told 
that I am a traitor to Liberal principles because I 
supported conscription ; therefore I am personally 
interested in seeking it out. I cannot find it. 
Every great democracy which has been challenged, 
which has had its liberties menaced, has defended 
itself by resort to compulsion, from Greece down- 
wards. Washington won independence for America 
by compulsory measures ; America defended its 
independence in 1812 by compulsory measures. 
Lincoln was not merely a great democrat, but 
his career was in itself the greatest triumph 
that democracy has ever achieved in the sphere 
of government. He proclaimed the principle of 
‘ Government of the People, by the People, 
for the People,’ and he kept it alive by 
conscription. In the French Revolution the 
French people defended their newly obtained 
liberties against every effort of the autocracies 
of Europe by compulsion and by conscriptionary 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 733 

levies. France is defending her country to-day 
by conscription. In Italy the Italian democracy 
are seeking to redeem their enthralled brethren 
by compulsion. In Serbia the Serbian peasants 
defended their mountains by compulsory measures, 
and they are going to win them back by 
the same means. When honourable members say 
that conscription is contrary to the principles of 
liberty and true democracy, they are talking in 
defiance of the whole teaching of history and of 
common sense.” 

I also remarked that in the face of the national 
emergency which made this measure imperative, I 
would submit to be driven out of my party, and out of 
public life altogether, rather than refuse it my support. 

I had in fact been pressing the need for compulsory 
military service on the Government for a considerable 
My pan in the time, and the importance of the part I 
controversy : had played in finally carrying it through 

Robertsons was attested by two letters which I 
letters received at the time from Sir William 

Robertson. The first of these was of some length, 
and in it Robertson was good enough to comment 
in warm terms on my “ great courage and patriotism,” 
and wound up with the assertion that “ but for you 
it would not have been done.” The second was 
shorter, and I transcribe it in full : — 


“ War Office. 

2/5/1916. 


Dear Mr. Lloyd George, 

The Bill introduced to-day should more than 
compensate you for the rubbishy Press attacks of 



WAR MEMOIRS 


734 

the last week or two. The great thing is to get the 
Bill, and for it the Empire’s thanks are due to you — 

a ^ one ' Yours very truly, 

Wm. Robertson.” 


These expressions of appreciation are perhaps the 
more important, because Sir William Robertson was 
not always in as cordial sympathy with my ideas. 
But if my zeal for this cause won me some approval in 
quarters not uniformly favourable to me, it added a 
fresh edge to the bitterness of those who held that my 
determination to fight the War through without 
hesitation or reserve, was a most improper and. 


Hostility roused indeed, unholy attitude. The distrust and 
among a section hostility of this section of Liberal opinion 
my speech at was henceforward confirmed and ineradic- 
Conway able. Speaking at Conway on 6th May, 
1916, in advocacy of the Military Service Bill, I found 
myself compelled to reply to a series of attacks which 
had been directed against me by a prominent Liberal 
journalist who was at that time in close touch with 


some of my colleagues, for “ abandoning Liberalism,” 


“ throwing such fervour into the prosecution of the 
War,” and “ having differences of opinion with my 
chief.” To the first charge, the fact that a vast majority 
of Liberals in the House of Commons had supported 
the Conscription Bill sufficiently gave the lie. To the 
second charge I pleaded guilty on the ground that 
while I hated war I held, once we had decided to wage 
war, that we must wage it effectively. “ That is why 
I have had no sympathy with those who seem to think 
that because war is hateful, you ought to fight it with 
a sort of savour of regret in your actions. Doubting 
hand never yet struck firm blow.” 



THE COMING OF CONSCRIPTION 735 

Of my relations with Mr. Asquith I declared : — 

“ I have worked with him for ten years ; I have 
served under him for eight. If we had not worked 
harmoniously — and we have — let me tell 
T ribute to you here at once it would have been my 
Mr . Asquith fault and not his. I have never worked 
with anyone who could be more con- 
siderate, and I disdain the things they have said. 
But we have had our differences. Good Heavens ! 
What use would I have been if I had not differed ? 
I should have been no use at all. He has shown me 
great kindness during the years I have worked with 
him. I should have ill requited them if I had not 
told my opinions freely, frankly, independently, 
whether they agreed with his or not. 

Freedom of speech is essential in everything, but 
there is one place where it is vital and that is in the 
Council Chamber. The councillor who professes 
to agree with everything that falls from his leader 
has betrayed him.” 

Looking backward after the event, no one can now 
doubt that the adoption of conscription was vitally 
necessary for carrying the War through to victory. 
Without it we should have been overwhelmed when 
Russia, Roumania and Serbia had all cracked and 
the French Army was threatening mutiny. 

The effect on our Allies was heartening. Lord 
Esher in a memorandum dated 4th May, 1916, 
reported an interview he had just had with M. Briand, 
and stated : — 

“ M. Briand spoke with enthusiasm and deep 
content of yesterday’s proceedings in the English 
Parliament. He is certain that it will have 



WAR MEMOIRS 


736 

far-reaching results in Germany, and will accentuate 
the uneasiness, growing fast among the Central 
Powers, as to the ultimate issue of the 
Enthusiasm War. . . . The adoption of compulsory 
in France service in England will, he thinks, have a 
lowering effect on German mentality and 

morale. 

The effect in France will be even greater. 

In spite of all that England has done, which is 
well known to the French Government, there are 
many people in France in whose minds doubts still 
linger as to the determination of England to go 
through with the War to the bitter end. To these 
people the adoption by the English Parliament 
of a procedure so foreign to the traditions and 
habits of the English people will be a “ coup de 
massue .” The whole French nation, he says, will 
now recognise that England means to make every 
necessary sacrifice, and any doubts that existed 
will be at once dispelled.” 

While recognising the necessity for the introduction 
of compulsory service, I have always emphasised and 
paid tribute to the magnificence of the voluntary 
effort which the manhood of the country put forward 
in 1914 and 1915. In my speech at Conway on 6th 
May, to which I have already referred, I said : — 

“ The achievement of the nation in raising by 
voluntary methods those huge armies is something 
of which we may very well be proud. It 
Achievements j s almost unparalleled in the history of 

recruiting war ’ anc * nothing which has happened 
since in the way of compulsory measures 
can ever detract from the pride we possess in the 
fact that we are the first nation in the history of the 



THE COMIMG OF CONSCRIPTION 737 

world that has raised over three millions of men for 
any great military enterprise purely by voluntary 
means. Young men from every quarter of this 
country flocked to the standard of international 
right as to a great crusade. It was a glorious 
achievement, and well may Britain be proud of it ! ” 

According to a memorandum of the Committee of 
Imperial Defence, dated 17th April, 1916, the number 
of men who had by that date actually gone into service 
with the forces, naval and military, including those 
already serving at the outbreak of war, was 3,769,659, 
to which there should be added those in attested 
groups of married men not yet called up, and single 
men attested but retained in starred occupations, to a 
total of 697,000, making a grand total of 4,667,000 
men as our full volunteer force, exclusive of contin- 
gents from the Dominions and India, which would 
bring the sum to well over 5,000,000. 

On the day when the Military Service Bill received 
the Royal Assent, the King issued a “ message to 
his people,” in the following terms : — 

“ Buckingham Palace, 

25th May, 1916. 

To enable our country to organise more 
effectively its military resources in the present great 
struggle for the cause of civilisation, I have. 
The King's acting on the advice of my Ministers, 
message deemed it necessary to enrol every able- 
bodied man between the ages of eighteen 
and forty-one. 

I desire to take this opportunity of expressing to 
my people my recognition and appreciation of the 
splendid patriotism and self-sacrifice which they 
have displayed in raising by voluntary enlistment, 



WAR MEMOIRS 


738 

since the commencement of the War, no less than 
5,041,000 men, an effort far surpassing that of any 
other nation in similar circumstances recorded in 
history, and one which will be a lasting source of 
pride to future generations. I am confident that 
the magnificent spirit which has hitherto sustained 
my people through the trials of this terrible war 
will inspire them to endure the additional sacrifice 
now imposed upon them, and that it will, with 
God’s help, lead us and our Allies to a victory which 
shall achieve the liberation of Europe. 

George R.I ” 



CHAPTER XXIV 


DISINTEGRATION OF THE LIBERAL PARTY 

The fissures which showed themselves in the ranks of 
Liberalism during the debate on conscription were 
not of sudden growth. They had been 
First steadily forming and widening during the 

AugusfVgi 4 P rev i° us twelve months. At the first 
challenge in 1914 a gust of patriotic 
fervour had swept the party forward in united resolve, 
and there were very few who felt compelled by their 
principles to join with Lord Morley, Mr. Trevelyan, 
and Mr. Burns in withdrawing from the Government 
and deciding to hold aloof from the conflict. The 
leaders of the National Liberal Federation issued on 
8th August a circular announcing the indefinite 
suspension of party propaganda and calling on 
Liberals to sink political differences and give 
themselves to the service of the country ; and 
the Liberal Magazine declared, “ In the great war 
in which we are engaged, at whatever cost we must 
win.” 

But as the War went on the men brought up on the 
Growth of anti- peace-loving precepts of Cobden and 
war feeling Bright and Gladstone disliked it more and 
among political more. They had no doubt or hesitation 
sectaries as t0 justice or inevitability of our 
part in it. But they gradually became depressed at 
vol. 11 739 n 



WAR MEMOIRS 


740 

the sight of the dread machinery which thrust itself 
upon them everywhere in the highways and byways, 
and at the evidence of the accumulating horror which 
spread desolation throughout the land. The larger 
and more sagacious half of the party treated the 
War as a disagreeable necessity forced upon us in 
the defence of liberty, and to be brought to an end 
all the sooner by a vigorous organisation of all our 
available resources into a great national effort. But 
the real political sectary in his heart argued thus : 
“ War is a hideous thing. You must show your 
aversion by waging it half-heartedly. Wield the 
sword with your left hand, and let your right nurse 
its strength until the blessed day arrives when it 
will be needed once more for swinging the sword 
of the Lord and of Gideon in the eternal fight 
for the principles to which we are attached.” The 
men who threw the whole of their strength and spirit 
into waging war effectively were disliked and distrusted 
more and more by the sectarians. Every cannon and 
shell turned out by these men weighed them down 
deeper into perdition. Hence the heavier the guns 
they turned out the deeper their damnation. The 
men who won their admiration and trust were those 
leaders who proved the sincerity of their shudder by 
waging war nervelessly. The more ineffective they 
became the greater was the trust which was placed 
in the integrity of their leadership by these high- 
minded followers. Even under the accommodating 
Premiership of Mr. Asquith there were ominous 
growls and occasional outbursts of impatience from 
the straitest of his supporters. They resented con- 
scription, which had consequently to be carried in 
two steps. There is no greater mistake than to try to 
leap an abyss in two jumps. 



DISINTEGRATION OF LIBERAL PARTY 74 1 

The Opposition Lobbies, it is true, were not over- 
crowded with malcontents. Real Parliamentary 

Malcontents °P inion can , rarcl Y be gathered from a 
in the clubs : perusal of divisions lists. There were 
I find myself sinister grumblings in the corridors and 
ostracised tea-rooms. The activities of the Ministry 
of Munitions in turning out guns, rifles, shot, and 
shell on an unprecedented scale provoked irritation 
and even resentment amongst certain Liberals in 
Press, Parliament and Club. The personal attitude 
of old political friends towards me changed and 
chilled after I became Minister of Munitions. It 
found petulant expression in speeches and articles, 
and I felt myself shunned and even spurned by men 
who once had greeted me with cordiality and en- 
thusiasm. I was treated as one tainted with the 
leprosy of war. I had a sense of political isolation 
more complete than I had ever experienced during the 
whole of my lifetime. My old friends were turning 
their backs on me. The Conservatives had not yet 
forgotten the part I had played in the bitter con- 
troversies of the last few years, and the Liberals were 
resentful and sulky. 

This attitude hurt me deeply, but it did not 
slow down by one pulsation my resolve to work 
energetically and to the limit of my power at the 
terrible task to which I had been called. I had 
assented to the declaration of war w r ith tenacious 
reluctance, but once I was persuaded of its inevitable 
justice I threw myself with all my energy into the task 
of helping my country to vindicate the right. I was 
encouraged during these difficult times by a message 
which I received, early in 1916, from Theodore 
Roosevelt through a friend of his, Colonel Arthur Lee 
(now Lord Lee of Fareham), who acted as my military 



WAR MEMOIRS 


742 

liaison officer at the Ministry of Munitions. Roose- 
velt’s letter ran as follows : — 

“ Dear Arthur, 

Your letter was most interesting and I am more 
pleased than I can say that you are so hard at work 
and in so congenial and useful a way. 
A message Give my heartiest regards to Lloyd George. 
T^Roosevelt Do te ^ him I admire him immensely. I 
have always fundamentally agreed with 
his social program, but I wish it supplemented by 
Lord Roberts’s external program. Nevertheless, 
my agreement with him in program is small com- 
pared with the fact that I so greatly admire the 
character he is now showing in this great crisis. 
It is often true that the only way to render great 
services is by willingness on the part of the statesman 
to lose his future, or, at any rate, his present 
position in political life, just exactly as the soldier 
may have to pay with his physical life in order to 
render service in battle. In a very small and 
unimportant way I have done this myself during 
the last eighteen months. I have paid no heed, 
and shall not pay the slightest heed, to the effect 
upon my own fortunes, of anything that I say. 
What I am trying to do is to make this country go 
right, and I don’t give a damn as what my country- 
men think of me in the present or the future, 
provided only I can make them wake up to the 
sense of their duty. In an infinitely greater 
emergency, Lloyd George seems to me to be 
following the same line of conduct in trying to 
serve Great Britain at present. 

Don’t make any mistake about me. I don’t 
believe there is any chance of my being nominated. 



DISINTEGRATION' OF LIBERAL PARTY 743 

because, as I wrote Lodge the other day, it would 
be utter folly to nominate me, unless the country 
was in heroic mood. If they put ‘ Safety First ’ 
ahead of honour and duty, then they don’t want 
me, and they need not expect that I will pussy-foot 
in any shape or way on the great issues that I regard 
as vital, and to which I regard all others as sub- 
ordinate. 

I hope you have by this time seen a copy of my 
book. Read the first chapter and the conclusion. 
Perhaps Lloyd George might be interested in 
looking at two or three sentences that you may care 
to show him. . . 

As long as the party was united there was no 
organised secession. Sir John Simon’s feeble efforts 
^ ni -_ to lead a “ cave ” on conscription were 

conscriptionists ’ a ridiculous failure. He is a very able 
hostility bieeds man, but he commands neither the bold- 
a split ness, the breadth, nor the inspiration that 

are essential to great leadership. But apart from 
these issues there was inside the Cabinet a definite 
group which sought to drive a wedge between the 
Prime Minister and myself. As long as I was at the 
Exchequer I saw Mr. Asquith almost every morning 
before the Cabinet and discussed with him matters 
of urgency. Interviews were easily arranged when 
I worked at the Treasury Buildings, which had a door 
opening into io, Downing Street. 

On my way to the Treasury from n, Downing 
Street I passed through the Prime Minister’sjesidence. 
We invariably got on well and pleasantly together 
when we met. But when I went to the Ministry of 
Munitions I had to be there by nine o’clock and I found 
it difficult to leave until late in the evening. I thus saw' 



WAR MEMOIRS 


much less of Mr. Asquith. In fact I saw very little of 
him alone for months. That was the opportunity of 
the mischief-makers and they took full advantage 
of it. When I left the Exchequer and Mr. M'Kenna 
took my place it was understood that his appointment 
was to be provisional. I was to return to my post at 
the Treasury as soon as I had set munitions going. 
This arrangement was a mistake and did much harm. 

The very possibility of its ever material- 
Characteristics j s i n g made of Mr. M‘Kenna a bitter 

M'Kenna enemy and poisoned his personal relations 
towards me. Ever afterwards they re- 
mained septic. This condition made business trans- 
actions in which I was engaged as Minister — all 
involving finance — very difficult. I ought to have 
assured him from the outset that I had no intention 
of ever claiming the redemption of the Prime 
Minister’s pledge. Mr. M'Kenna possessed many 
of the gifts that make a good administrator in times 
that do not call specially for imagination, breadth of 
vision, or human insight. He knew the details of his 
job as Chancellor, he was a competent arithmetician, 
a ready reckoner (Mr. Balfour once said he was “ an 
adroit accountant ”), he was, in fact, a master of 
finance in blinkers. His chief defect, as I have already 
pointed out, was that he was apt to divide his more 
conspicuous colleagues into those he liked and those 
he viewed with distrust, suspicion, and jealousy. 
This peculiarity made him a source of weakness and 
distraction in a team. His was the most active personal 
element in the disintegration of the Asquith Coalition. 
A lady with a gift of satirical analysis of character 
once said to me that he was like one of those shilling 
paint-boxes given to children. The blocks were hard 
and angular, the colours were all very definite and 



DISINTEGRATION OF LIBERAL PARTY 745 


crude. He possessed none of those delicate tints 
which you find on an artist’s palette. 

From June, 1915, to June, 1916, I was so immersed 
in the hurrying on of munitions for our hard-pressed 
Army that I had very little time to watch the political 
situation or to keep in touch with politicians in or 
out of the House of Commons, and I did not quite 
realise how far hostile intrigues had gone. When, 
later on at the end of 1916, the definite split came in 


the party and most of the Liberal members of the 
Cabinet declined further responsibility for the conduct 
of the War except under conditions of 
Liberal guerilla p er sonal leadership which were inaccept- 

lecond 'coalition able to the nation, all restraint disappeared 
and no likely opportunity was missed for 
criticising and occasionally embarrassing the Govern- 
ment of the day. The attacks were generally left to 
guerillas, but the sympathy and encouragement of 
leaders to these snipings were not wanting and were 
barely concealed. On two or three conspicuous 
occasions which appeared to be propitious, leaders 
and all joined in the assault, horse, foot and artillery. 
The official organisation set to work energetically in 
the country to spread suspicions and undermine 
confidence in the War Cabinet which was prosecuting 
the War with such excessive zeal. Multitudes of true 


Liberals did their best to save Liberalism from the 


eternal reproach of presenting this factiousness as the 
only contribution which their party was able to make 
to the security of the nation at a time of unparalleled 
danger in its history. For this they were persecuted, 
and for this they have never been forgiven by those 
whose futility in a grave emergency has doomed 
Liberalism to a generation of querulous impotence. 

What would have happened had the party kept 



746 WAR MEMOIRS 

together to the end ? It is impossible to surmise. 

There was one man who, if he had 
Tragedy of survived the War, might have kept the 
worth's death " Liberal leaders from separating — the late 
Mr. Percy Illingworth. Without his 
powerful help as Chief Whip, Mr. Asquith was 
unequal to the task of reconciling personal differences 
and imposing unity. Percy Illingworth was the best 
type of Englishman — straight, competent, fearless, 
with a complete subordination of self to duty. He 
was devoted to Mr. Asquith as his leader — he was 
proud of him as a Yorkshireman. He was attached 
to me as a friend. He was loyal to us both, and we 
both knew and trusted him implicitly. He had a 
thorough cognisance of the intrigues of little men who 
plotted incessantly to separate us, and as long as he 
was there he kept a vigilant eye upon their activities 
and intimidated them with his Yorkshire bluntness 
of speech. In January, 1915, he died of typhoid 
acquired by eating a bad oyster. Had he been alive 
in 1916 there would have been no split between Mr. 
Asquith and myself. Of that I am convinced. 
What trifling incidents often precipitate important 
events ! A rotten mollusc poisoned the whole Liberal 
Party for years and left it enfeebled. Later on the 
bite of a monkey in Greece altered the whole course 
of events in the Levant and had its reactions much 
further afield. 

War has always been fatal to Liberalism. “ Peace, 
Retrenchment, and Reform ” have no meaning in 
war. Moreover, a nation, to make war 
War fatal to effectively, must be prepared to surrender 
Liberalism individual right and freedom for the time 
being. If the war is prolonged, that 
submission becomes a habit. Victory is the triumph 



DISINTEGRATION OF LIBERAL PARTY 747 

of force and not of reason. After every great war 
there is a period during which belligerent nations 
incline to divide into two extreme camps — roughly 
known as revolutionary and reactionary. In that 
temper Liberalism is at a disadvantage. That is why 
it is to-day at a discount throughout Europe. Even 
in America its doctrines assume the form of a dictator- 
ship. The temporary collapse of the Liberal Party 
in this country was inevitable from the moment it 
became responsible for the initiation and conduct of 
a great war. The instinct of the ordinary Liberal in 
that respect was sound. The War therefore made 
him uneasy. 

1914 was a catastrophe for Liberalism. That was 
unfortunate, but the issues at stake were too big for 
treatment in terms of party interests. 
The challenge to international right and 

more importaat 0 5 

than party freedom was so tremendous that Liberal- 

tssues : con- ism — above all Liberalism — could not 

ditionsfor shirk it When millions of men placed 
honest coalition - . , . . ... T „ , . r 

their lives at the disposal 01 their country 

without giving a thought to the political complexion 

of the Government or Minister to whose call they 

were responding or whose decrees they were obeying, 

it would be but a sorry boast for politicians who face 

no such danger to claim that they also had forgotten 

party interests in their country’s peril. But there are 

certain obvious principles which should govern politics 

in such circumstances. Any combination of parties 

in a national emergency, if it is to be effective, involves 

a readiness in all the parties concerned to give and 

take. The moment it becomes a blind or subterfuge 

for the attainment of its aims by one party in the 

combination, then it is a selfish fraud practised on the 

nation. The two War Coalitions were honestly 



WAR MEMOIRS 


748 

worked for patriotic ends. I saw Mr. Asquith at the 
head of two War Governments, one Liberal, the 
other Coalition, and from a close acquaintance with 
him during both administrations, I am able to say, and 
do say unhesitatingly and without qualification that, 
once war was declared, in neither of his Governments 
did he give any thought to party advantage. Indeed, 
so completely did he forget even party principles 
during his second administration that, in his desire 
to propitiate old opponents and so ensure unity, he 
assented to a Protectionist Budget, and even went so 
far as to pledge the country, by an agreement entered 
into with its Allies at the famous Paris Conference, to 
a drastic and far-reaching policy of protection after 
the War. 

Whether general danger to a community comes 
from flood, fire, or war, the instinct that leads to 
common action rather than to divided counsels is the 
same. It is evinced primarily by a readiness to co- 
operate with anyone who is willing and fit to climb 
the ladder, play the hose, handle the axe, or in any 
useful way face and fight the fire. 

This elementary parable represents my views on 
the correct position of the party system during a war 
great enough to demand the undivided attention and 
whole energy of a nation. 

For my own part, throughout the whole War, I 
never made inquiries as to a helper’s political past. 

And when I knew the party to which he 
My colleagues belonged, that fact exercised no influence 
in the War whatever on my judgment of his qualifi- 
cation. I only wanted to ascertain his 
fitness for his job. 

The two men of whom I saw most during the last 
two years of the War, when I had supreme direction, 



DISINTEGRATION OF LIBERAL PARTY 749 

were Mr. Bonar Law and Lord Milner, both of whom 
belonged to the political side opposed to my own. 
And yet at our numerous conferences and consultations 
I was never even remotely conscious of their party 
associations. Why should I have been? When 
specialists are called into consultation on a case of 
serious illness, foolish indeed would be the relative 
and even criminal would be the doctor who thought 
more of the political views of these experts than of 
their qualifications to assist in pulling the patient 
through the crisis. Unhappily for the Liberal Party 
it included, at that supreme time of trial, many doctors 
and kinsmen who took another and narrower view 
of their responsibilities, and who protested stoutly 
that consultants tainted with political heresy should 
be excluded from the sick-room. And these bigots 
have never forgiven those who adopted a different 
attitude. 



CHAPTER XXV 


LORD KITCHENER: 

A CHARACTER STUDY 

To me Lord Kitchener is one of the unsolved mysteries 
of the War. Was he a great man, or was he a great 
disappointment ? There were many 
Conflicting competent observers who knew him well, 
hi™ ateS but took different views of his character 
— there were many who held conflicting 
estimates alternatively and simultaneously. But 
no one who ever saw him regarded him as an ordinary 
man, for his very appearance had a distinction all 
its own. What he did well he did with a sway that 
was peculiar to himself. When he saw his vision 
was penetrating. Even his failings were not ordinary. 
He held childish opinions on some matters, but they 
were not commonplace. When he did silly things, 
as the wisest men occasionally do, they were extra- 
ordinarily silly. His intuitions, his improvisations, 
his visions — yes, even his stupidities — were all far 
removed from the average. 

A lady with a pernicious gift for stinging epigram 
described him as “Not a great man, but a great 
poster.” He was, indeed, the greatest “ poster ” 
since Boulanger, but he was far more. He was 
certainly not a Boulanger, for he was conspicuously 
free from the vice of the poseur. After having been 
in close touch with him and having seen him at work 

750 



LORD KITCHENER 


75 1 

every week and almost every day, for nearly two years, 
I could not even then quite make up my mind about 
his qualities. Of this I feel certain, he 
Flashes of had flashes of greatness. He was like 
greatness one Q f those revolving lighthouses which 
radiate momentary gleams of revealing 
light far out into the surrounding gloom and then 
suddenly relapse into complete darkness. There 
were no intermediate stages. Now and again he 
would express an opinion or give utterance to an 
illuminating phrase that penetrated the fog of war, 
and then sometimes he would indulge in a garrulous- 
ness which displayed the greatest ignorance of the 
elementary conditions with which he had to deal. 

He had an ineffable contempt for the 
Fixed ideas Territorials and a puerile fear of the 
Senussi. I heard him talk of the Terri- 
torials as if they were a worthless rabble 
of make-believes. On the other hand, I heard him 
talk with woe of the possibility of a million Senussi 
horsemen sweeping into the Egyptian Delta. 

Whether he had always been so, or whether the 
tropical sun had scorched and parched some of his 
intelligence, leaving merely oases of verdure and 
fertility, I cannot judge, for I only met him once 
previously, some three years before the War. He was 
then full of admiration for the German Army and 
pitying contempt for the French Army. “ They will 
walk through them like partridges,” was one of his 
phrases. I discovered that his opinion was not based 
on military but on political reasons. There is no 
greater fatuity than a political judgment dressed in 
a military uniform. What convinced him of the 
superiority of the German to the French soldier was 
that the latter had been demoralised by democratic 



WAR MEMOIRS 


752 

views and concomitant ideas of liberty which were 
utterly incompatible with true discipline, whereas the 
former was trained to obey his superiors. 
Contempt for He was right and he was wrong. The 
democracy German system proved superior for the 
short course, but French democracy was 
the better in the long run. The autocratic system of 
the German Empire crashed hopelessly when it 
had to bear the burden of a great defeat. 

Kitchener’s rigid point of view and its reactionary 
arrogance showed itself in other directions. Some of his 
mental veins had hardened and any pressure on them 
produced apoplectic results. He vehemently opposed 
the recognition of Nonconformist denominations not 
already included in the Army List, and his refusal to 
appoint chaplains of what he evidently 
Opposition to thought were superfluous and eccentric 
chaplains sects provoked the most angry scenes I 
have ever witnessed at a Cabinet. The 
Army only recognised three or four denominations. 
The others, not being on the Army List, had no exist- 
ence for him. He did not realise that with an army 
that was being multiplied tenfold and drawing recruits 
from classes, or rather types, untapped by the ordinary 
recruiting sergeant, the variety of religious beliefs held 
must necessarily be greater. To his mind the religious 
services provided for the regulars of the old army 
ought to be good enough for these amateur soldiers. 
The vital importance of encouraging national 
co-operation by deferring to all legitimate suscep- 
tibilities did not occur to him. This showed the 
light occulted. When he gave way, however, he 
did it thoroughly. I well remember how, when he 
had been overruled by the Cabinet on the question 
of chaplains he took a piece of paper, started writing, 



LORD KITCHEXER 


753 

and turning to me said : “ Come now, tell me the 
names of these sects for which you want padres. Is 
this list right ? Primitive Baptists, Calvinistic 
Wesleyans, Congregational Methodists. . . .? ” It 
was not intended to cast ridicule ; he simply had never 
heard the correct names of these great religious 
bodies. I gave him the right titles. He wrote them 
all down carefully. As soon as he returned to the 
War Office he took steps to invite representatives of 
all these denominations to attend a Chaplains Com- 
mittee there. It functioned right through the War 
without any friction. 

A smaller man, according to the wont of small men, 
would have pretended to signify agreement, and then 
have placed every obstacle in the path of execution. 
Lord Kitchener may or may not have been a great 
man, but he certainly was not a small one, and here 
his action was that of greatness, for having been 
overruled he loyally accepted defeat. 

His attitude towards the various nationalities that 
constitute the people of the United Kingdom was 
more obdurate, and his obstinacy had 
Fight over far-reaching and fatal results. Scotchmen 
division had by tradition established a military 

title to their nationality, and it was a 
title Lord Kitchener respected and honoured. But 
although Welshmen and Irishmen had also their 
separate national regiments, he declined to encourage 
their national sentiments when it came to the point 
of raising separate Welsh and Irish divisions. The 
case of the Welsh division was one with which I w r as 
naturally particularly concerned. In order to en- 
courage recruiting in the Principality, a number of 
influential Welshmen, with the Earl of Plymouth at 
their head, decided to form and raise a purely Welsh 



WAR MEMOIRS 


754 

division. Colonel Owen Thomas took a very active 
part in this effort. But when the proposal came 
before Lord Kitchener he promptly vetoed it. The 
question was thereupon raised by me in the Cabinet, 
and there was a fierce fight. In the end the cause 
of the Welsh division was carried. Lord Kitchener 
came to me afterwards and said : “ What was the 
name of the officer who pressed this scheme forward ? ” 
I told him it was Colonel Owen Thomas. “ Can 
you bring him along to me ? ” asked Kitchener, and 
I promised to do so. The Colonel was summoned 
post haste to London, and I took him round to 
Kitchener, at the War Office. Kitchener bent on 
him a terrific frown, and Thomas, though a stout- 
hearted fellow, visibly quailed on seeing that im- 
posing personage with his stern face and his terrifying 
eyes. Lord Kitchener rumbled forth : “I understand 
you are a Colonel.” Thomas timidly signified 
assent. “ Would you like to become a Brigadier- 
General ? ” Thomas could not find his tongue, and 
I answered promptly for him, ** Of course he would ! ” 
“ Then I will make you a Brigadier-General for this 
Welsh division. Carry on ! ” said Kitchener. 

In the case of the Welsh division he thus made a 
handsome surrender. But unhappily for the country, 
he maintained his dislike for the Irish 
Attitude to division. This formation represented 
Irish division poor John Redmond’s last effort to bring 
Ireland effectively into the War. He 
addressed recruiting meetings throughout Ireland, 
and his eloquence won thousands of young Irish 
Nationalists and Catholics to fight under the standard 
of freedom and justice raised by the British Empire. 
His brother, William Redmond, one of the best loved 
members of the House of Commons, took a commission 



LORD KITCHENER 


755 

in this new unit, and he subsequently fell fighting 
under the British flag in France. But Lord Kitchener 
did his best to damp the ardour of the Redmonds. 
He refused commissions to educated young Irishmen 
of the class and type who were being made officers in 
England, Scotland, and Wales, for no conceivable 
reason, except that he distrusted and disliked their 
nationalism. The culminating incident will take 
an invidiously prominent place in the tragic history 
of Irish relations with Great Britain. Nationalist 
ladies, fired with enthusiasm for the new Irish division, 
for Mr. Redmond and for the cause to which they 
were devoting themselves, embroidered a silken flag 
with the Irish harp emblazoned upon it. 
The two At the same moment the patriotic ladies 

lush flags 0 f Ulster were embroidering the Red 

Hand of Ulster on the flag which they 
designed to present to a division which was being 
raised in Ulster. In due course the two flags were 
presented to the respective divisions. One was taken 
and the other was left. When Lord Kitchener heard 
of the green flag and its Irish harp he ordered that it 
should be taken away. But the Ulster flag was 
allowed to fly gloriously over the heads of the Orange 
soldiers of the Protestant North. Ireland was deeply 
hurt. Her pride was cut to the quick, her sense of 
fair play was outraged, her sympathy with the Holy 
War against the military dictatorship of Europe was 
killed, and John Redmond’s heart was broken. He 
ought to have appealed to Parliament, but he probably 
knew it was too late to avert the evil. From that 
moment the effort of Irish Nationalism to reconcile 
England and Ireland by uniting the two peoples 
in a common effort for the oppressed of another 
land failed, and Lord Kitchener’s sinister order 


vol. n 


o 



WAR MEMOIRS 


756 

constituted the first word in a new chapter of Irish 
history. 

Like all great men he had a sense of humour. 
Amongst my papers I came across a pleasant reminder 
of this fact. A Welsh mariner interned at 
Ruhleben had sent home a letter in which 
he had sought successfully to convey 
without censorship to his relations at 
home some notion of the severity of the conditions 
in that camp. The letter was sent on to Kitchener. 
Here is the letter : — 

“ Englisches Lager, 

Barake 1 1 , 

Ruhleben, 

Bei Spandau, 

Dear Wife and Children, Berlin. 

I have your letter of the 1st, and am pleased to 
know you are all well. I am afraid we are here 
for a long time and we dread the winter. I wish 
I were at home with you. 

I am still keeping well and I cannot say any 
more. My love to you all, and my respects to 
Cig, Tan, Menin, and Siwgr, whom I have not seen 
this long time, but hope to see when I get home. 

&c., &c.” 

A footnote by Lord Kitchener’s correspondent 
explains that : — 

“ The words as above (Cig, Tan, Menin, Siwgr) 
are Welsh, and the interpretation of them respec- 
tively is : — 

Meat 

Fire 

Butter 

Sugar.” 


A Welsh 
prisoner’s 
adioit 
complaint 



LORD KITCHENER 757 

A copy was sent on by Lord Kitchener to Sir 
Edward Grey and myself with this endorsement : — 

“ Sir Edward Grey. 

Mr. Lloyd George. 

The value of the Welsh language in dealing with 

the cultured Teuton. 

K” 

When I met him subsequently at the Cabinet he 
chortled over the incident. 

His was a hypnotic personality and the impulse 
of his magnetism moved multitudes of men to willing 
action. Was he a great organiser ? I 
Gifts of cannot tell, even though I saw his greatest 
organisation tasks. He undoubtedly possessed some 
of the rarest qualities of the great organiser 
— the gifts of improvisation, of drive, of leadership. 
But he had developed two patent defects, a reluctance 
to delegate and, more serious still, an inability to 
choose the right men. 

Lord Kitchener was one of the first to realise the 
magnitude of the War. When most men talked of 
peace before Christmas he predicted a 
Long view of three years’ struggle and set out — as far 
War’s duration as men were concerned — to prepare for it. 

He made a call first for half a million and 
then for a million more. He knew that with the 
means at his disposal not one half of them would be 
available for the field for a full year. As a matter of 
fact the first battle of the first divisions of the “ K ” 
army was fought in September, 1915. His views as 
to the duration of the campaign changed somewhat 
from time to time, and in the spring of 1915, he 
predicted that the German reserves would be 



WAR MEMOIRS 


758 

exhausted by September. But nothing can rob him 
of the credit for the vision that foresaw in August, 
1914, a three years’ campaign, and for the energy 
and wisdom with which he set out at once to prepare 
for it. 

I doubt whether any other man could at that 
moment have attracted the hundreds of thousands 
who rallied to the flag at his appeal. 
Immense value And those who were responsible for 
°appeal pers0na placing the striking portrait of Lord 
Kitchener’s strong face on the appeals 
to fight for “ King and Country ” had a genius for 
publicity. It was eminently the face of a com- 
mander. The resolution of its firm lines, the mix ture 
of calm penetration and determination in the steady 
eyes, the intelligence of the broad square brow, all 
gave an impression of irresistible strength that inspired 
everyone who saw it. And in those stormy days who 
was there who did not gaze on those granite features 
with a confidence of the kind that led the nation to 
heights of sacrifice ? Kitchener was cast in nature’s 
mould for a hero. 

Another proof of Lord Kitchener’s military vision 
was given in August, 1914, when the intention of the 
Germans to advance through Belgium 
was still unknown. General Joffre and 
his advisers were confident that the real 
blow would come from the Ardennes and 
that no serious German forces would advance in the 
Mons direction. Their view was that the roads in 
that quarter were not suited for the progress and 
maintenance of a great army. Lord Kitchener took 
a different view ; and I have a distinct recollection 
of his expressing his opinion to the Cabinet. 
The event proved he was right. The French 


Accurate 
forecast of 
German 
strategy 




xmt 



Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe bidding good-bye to Lord Kitchener on board 
Hampshire. Within half an hour of the taking of this photograph Hampshire struck 
1 a mine and Lord Kitchener was drowned. 



LORD KITCHENER 759 

Commander’s mistake was very nearly fatal to the 
Allied cause. 

Kitchener had not the mind for directing a great 
war conducted along lines to which he was com- 
Unreceptiue pletely unaccustomed either by training 
to new or experience. He never took to the 

developments manufacture of heavy guns for field 
of warfare warfare and he was sceptical of the 
prodigal expenditure of shells in trench warfare. 
He did not realise the part which the machine-gun 
was destined to play in the War. 

As the operations developed on lines which were 
farther and farther removed from his conception of 
warfare he became less and less effective and his 
judgment was less and less trusted by his colleagues. 
It is not too much to say that during the last few 
months of his stay at the War Office he was a roi 
faineant. Sir William Robertson was 
Decline of appointed to the position of Chief of the 
his authority Imperial General Staff, with powers that 
reduced Lord Kitchener’s position to 
that of a signatory Minister. He held the Seals of 
Office, but so far as war direction was concerned he 
had to use them under Sir William Robertson’s 
orders. It was no doubt a humiliating position for 
a great soldier, because he was in every respect a 
greater man and a greater soldier than the keeper 
of his seals. Nevertheless, his hold on the public 
never diminished, and to the end there was always 
a small crowd waiting outside the War Office watch- 
ing to catch a glimpse of him. And when the sad 
news broke upon London that he had gone down 
with the Hampshire in the cruel waters of the North 
Atlantic, a pall of dismay descended on the spirit of 
the people. Men and women spoke of the event in 



WAR MEMOIRS 


hushed tones of terror, The news of a defeat would 
not have produced such a sense of irreparable 
disaster. The tidings of the German 
Cw% tfict a d vance 0 f March, 1918, did not send 

fisM suc ^ a s ^ er ^ rou ^ Britain 
as did the news of the tragic end of this 

remarkable man. I am not capable of analysing 
Lord Kitchener’s attributes or gifts. But he was one 
of the great personalities of the War who exercised 
an indubitable effect on its course and thus on the 
destiny of the whole world. Great Britain and her 
Allies owe to the memory of Lord Kitchener the 
undying gratitude and the enduring fame which are 
the due of great service rendered greatly in a great 
cause. 



CHAPTER XXVI 


AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR 

On the 6th day of June, 1916, I walked across from 
the Ministry of Munitions to attend a War Council 
at 10, Downing Street. Before I entered the Cabinet 
Chamber the Prime Minister’s Secretary, Mr. Bonham 

Carter, beckoned me into his room and 
Aeuj of ^ jerked out something about the Hampshire. 
Kitchener s Usually quiet and composed, he was 

obviously labouring under some sup- 
pressed emotion which rendered his speech scarcely 
articulate. At last he was able to convey to me the 
startling news that the cruiser in which Lord Kitchener 
had sailed for Russia had struck a mine off the Orkneys 
and that Lord Kitchener and his staff had all been 
drowned. When I entered the Cabinet Room I found 
the Prime Minister, Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Balfour 
and Sir Maurice Hankey sitting at the table all 
looking stunned by the tragedy. One realised how 
deep was the impression made by the personality of 
this extraordinary man on all who came in contact 
with him. Sir Maurice Hankey and I quite forgot 
for the moment that had it not been for the Irish 
negotiations we also would have shared the same fate. 

The passing of Lord Kitchener left an empty place 
at the War Office. I realised that this post might 
be offered to me. But I was far from eager to 
go to the War Office under present conditions. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


762 


Although the post of Secretary of State for War was 
a much more exalted one than that of the Minister of 


My 

ministerial 

situation 


Munitions, and during the present hostili- 
ties came second in importance only to 
that of Prime Minister, it had during 
recent months declined very much in 


real influence. Lord Kitchener had lost much of his 


grip, and, as I have related above, the effective 
direction of War Office matters had been delegated 
by a special Order in Council to his Chief of Staff. 
I had no liking for the prospect of finding myself a 
mere ornamental figurehead in Whitehall. It is a 


part I would play grudgingly and gracelessly. Had the 
Secretaryship of State been a live office where the 


Minister exercised supreme control subject to Prime 
Minister and Cabinet, I should have welcomed the 


promotion. It would have afforded the opportunity to 
pull things together and alter the direction of affairs. 
I was becoming increasingly dismayed and dissatisfied 


at the course along which affairs were 
Not atti acted drifting, and seriously considered whether 
to War Office j could not render more effective help to 
our country by resigning office altogether, 
in order that, as an independent critic, not bound 
by the traditions of Cabinet unity, I might urge in 
Parliament and in the country a more vigorous and 
intelligent prosecution of the War. 


Among my papers I find the draft of a memorandum 
which I prepared on 17th June, 1916, for the purpose 
of laying before Mr. Asquith my views in reply to 
his offer of the Secretaryship for War. This is 
what I had set down : — 


“ I wrote you the other day asking you to let 
me have an opportunity of placing before you 



AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR 763 

certain serious considerations before you made up 
your mind finally about the War Office. Let me at 
Draft once relieve your mind of one possible 
memorandum anxiety. During the eight years I have 
°on '"the v * ewS had the privilege of serving under you I 
situation have no doubt given you from time to 
time a good deal of worry, but it has never 
been due to any personal claims I have ever 
pressed upon you. You were good enough to 
admit that, when the present Coalition Ad- 
ministration was formed. I do not now propose 
to ask you for any personal consideration or 
advancement, as you will realise later on. I have 
made other plans. But that emboldens me to 
place before you one or two considerations of a 
very urgent character. . . . 

1 . If the Allies are to be pulled together and 
to be induced to co-operate, you must have a 
Power- Secretary of State for War who, apart 
lessness from possessing personality, will possess 

of War real power and influence. No statesman 
Secretary wkh 

any self-respect would consent to 
occupy office under the humiliating conditions 
to which poor Kitchener had been reduced 
during the last few months of his life. Many a 
time I have seen him wince under the indignity 
of his position. Unless the Secretary of State 
has the ultimate say in patronage he will be 
treated with supreme contempt in his own 
department, and by the whole of the Army. 
Such a man would have no weight in the councils 
of the Allies, at a time when it is most urgent 
that his voice should be cast on the side of unity 
and co-operation. 

2. There are many important spheres of 



WAR MEMOIRS 

activity in the British Army which would be 
Need, to better placed under civilian than under 
mobilise military direction. It is no use referring 
civilian to what is done in Continental armies. 
ability Those armies numbered millions, and the 
best brains of the nation were attracted by the 
great prizes which were to be won by service 
in them. Ours was a small thing. The rewards 
were necessarily limited in number and scope. 
Where good brains are to be found in the British 
Army they ought to be put into tasks which 
civilians cannot discharge. They are wasted 
on mere business and contractual jobs. On the 
other hand, if the brains devoted to that class 
of work are not good, the Army suffers very 
severely and there is extravagance without 
efficiency. I never can get a soldier to realise 
this ; he has a rooted prejudice against giving 
what has always been regarded as a military 
job to a civilian. 

3. Soldiers are not very eager to promote 
brilliant subordinates, who may, if very successful, 
Military their lustre. They are not consciously 
distrust influenced by such rivalries, but un- 
°f, . consciously they undoubtedly are. They 
brilliancy p re f er a sa f Cj second-rate man in a 

position affording great opportunities, to running 
the risk of creating formidable rivals by choosing 
men of exceptional powers. This undoubtedly 
accounts for one or two appointments in the 
British Army, and still more for two or three 
non-appointments. A civilian on the other side 
would have no sense of rivalries in military 
promotion and he would insist upon the best 
man being appointed. 



AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR 


765 

4. No wise civilian would ever dream of 
embarking upon strategy. A man who did that 
would be fit for no post in any ministry. He 
would be a danger. There you must be advised 
by the expert. But the expert must also have 
his schemes checked by the common sense of the 
civilian. That is what happens in the War 
Committee. Great strategical enterprises ought 
to be submitted not merely to the Secretary of 
State, but to the War Committee. The soldiers 
Failure * n war ^- ave not been a conspicuous 
of War success. Up to the present there has 
Office not been a plan conceived and carried 
strategy out ky them which has not ended in 
bloody failure. 

These are some of the thoughts I wanted to put 
before you determined your action. As I have 
already stated, I have no personal interest in the 
matter. I propose now to take a course which I 
had determined upon long ago. I have been pro- 
foundly dissatisfied fora longtime with the progress 
and conduct of the War. I have expressed my 
dissatisfaction in writing and orally to you, the 
War Committee and the Cabinet. Had it not 
been for the fact that I had undertaken a task the 
carrying out of which was vital to the success of 
our Army, I should long ago have joined Carson, 
with whom I have been in the main in complete 
sympathy in his criticisms of the conduct of the 
War. But when there was trouble with labour, 
when the organisation which I had with the help 
of others created had not yet borne fruit, I felt 
as if I were running away from the post of difficulty. 
But now the Munitions Department has been an 
undoubted success. Ammunition is pouring in. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


766 


When I came in we were manufacturing in this 
country 70,000 shells a week ; that is about 
one-sixth of what we spend now in a 
Success of single week of ordinary trench warfare 
Munitions activity- The whole ammunition reserve 
was under 75,000 ; we produce more than 
twice that per day now. The guns are coming in 
by the hundred. The policy for which I was mainly 
responsible in respect of heavy guns — a policy, by 
the way, which I heard described by one of my 
colleagues as “ sheer lunacy,” and which has been 
consistendy opposed by him and by others for 
months — has now been demonstrated by the facts 
of the War to be the only one that can possibly 
achieve success. Our Army in France is now 
sending in a requisition for hundreds more of 
heavy guns than had ever been ordered by the 
War Office. Had it not been that I had in defiance 
of all authority high and low made arrangements 
for the manufacture of these guns, the requisition 
would be in vain. 

I am only pointing out these things in order to 
show that the Munitions Department ought almost 
to be able to run itself now. I therefore feel that 
my position in the Ministry is an anomalous one. 
Lack of as I am completely out of sympathy 
sympathy with the spirit and the method of the 
with War War direction. I feel we cannot win on 
direction these lines. We are undoubtedly losing 
the War, and nothing can save us but the nation 
itself. The people do not realise how grave the 
situation is. I feel they ought to be told. They 
ought to have a chance of saving themselves, 
otherwise they have a right to turn round on those 
who hold these views and say when disaster comes : 



AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR 767 

e Why did you not tell us in time ? 5 I know you 
have always taken a more optimistic view of the 
prospects, but I think you will agree that up to 
the present my gloomy forebodings have been 
realised. I hope to God I am wrong ; but if I 
am not, I should feel I had been guilty of a gross 
neglect of duty if in order to retain a pleasant 
office I had chosen to muzzle myself and not warn 
them in time of the danger impending their 
country. This is no newly formed resolution on 
my part, as the Lord Chief Justice can tell you, 
for I intimated to him many weeks ago my intention 
on the subject. There are things which must be 
said not merely to our own countrymen, but to 
the Allies, which cannot be said by one who is 
still a member of the Cabinet, and yet it is essential 
to the winning of the War that these warnings 
should be uttered. I have found it very difficult 
to refrain from expressing my opinion in con- 
versations, and I am conscious that to do so 
whilst I am still a member of the Government lays 
me open to the charge of disloyalty, so that I find 
myself in the unhappy position of having to choose 
between disloyalty to my colleagues and the 
betrayal of my country. 

It is with deep regret that from an overwhelming 
sense of public duty I feel that I must sever my 
Plan to association with you and with some of 
form a my other colleagues who have shown me 
“ ginger ” great kindness and goodwill, but I am 
opposition p ro f ounc Jiy convinced that I can render 
better service to my country in a very dark hour 
by standing outside and telling them what I know. 
I believe the Government is rapidly losing the 
confidence of the nation. It cannot retain it by 



WAR MEMOIRS 


768 

artificially prolonging the life of Parliament. The 
nation ought to have an opportunity of choosing 
its own policy and its own representatives to 
expound it, and I specially feel that the men in 
the trenches ought to have an opportunity of 
choosing the Parliament and the policy on which 
their lives depend. Here again I am conscious 
of being out of touch with several of my colleagues 
and I cannot help seeing that there is an attempt 
being made to put off a decision on this important 
question until it is too late to act. 

As to Ireland, as far as I am concerned it must 
be either through or off in the course of the next 
few days ; but I feel that outside the Government 
I can be more helpful even in the settlement of 
that question.” 

That memorandum gives a pretty definite indication 
of the views I had formed by that time about the 
situation ; and it shows some of the reasons why I 
was reluctant to take on the position of Secretary of 
I am State for War. However, after further 

persuaded, to talks with Mr. Asquith, with Lord 
withdraw Reading, who was strongly opposed to 
opposition resignation, with Mr. Bonar Law, and 
also with Lord Beaver brook, who was present at all 
my conversations with Mr. Bonar Law on the subject 
of the conduct of the War from this time onward until 
the reconstruction of the Government, I was per- 
suaded to give up the idea of resignation. I also 
consulted a very old and always a very good friend 
of mine, the late Sir Edward Russell (afterwards 
Lord Russell) of the Liverpool Post. I sent my memo- 
randum on to him, but he advised against resignation. 
Mr. Bonar Law urged that if I resigned and joined 



AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR 769 

Carson in criticism it would make his position in 
the Government quite intolerable. He also would 
have to retire. Thus we should break up the national 
unity. I therefore decided not to send in my memo- 
randum, and to postpone for the time my intention of 
leaving the Government. I accepted the War Office 
with considerable misgivings, partly on the ground 
of general War policy and partly because 
I take over the I disliked working in fetters. 

War Office On 6th July, 1916, therefore, Mr. 

Asquith, who had been once again in 
temporary charge of the War Office pending the 
appointment of Lord Kitchener’s successor, handed 
it over to me. 

I was at the War Office for only five months — too 
short a time to effect much change in its internal 
organisation and policy, particularly since the Chief 
of Staff, Sir William Robertson, regarded any effort 
to exercise authority on my part as an impingement 
upon his special powers, so he thrust out all his 
prickles whenever he suspected I might be about to 
attempt any rash civilian interference with the 
sanctities of military matters. The two chief tasks 
Two chief which I was able to carry out during 
tasks : my brief tenure — tasks of which I give 

T/ansport and some account in following sections — were 
Mesopotamia tidying up of the appalling muddle 

in Mesopotamia, and the reconstruction of the 
Transport system on the Western Front. I also 
stirred up recruiting in the Empire outside these 
islands. 

In these problems, which I inherited with my new 
office, I claim to have achieved a good measure of 
success. In the case of another inherited problem 
I was less happy. This was the matter of a military 



770 WAR MEMOIRS 

mission to Russia. I had from time to time since 
the War began pressed the Government 
The Russian to establish closer relations between the 
issue Western Allies and Russia. I was anxious 

not only to secure a more effective co- 
ordination between East and West, but also to find 
out what could be done towards re-equipping and 
thus reorganising the Russian Armies. 

Lord Kitchener was on his way to Russia when 
he lost his life. It was a mission of extreme urgency, 
for the critical state of affairs in that allied country 
could hardly be exaggerated, and if she were to be 
saved from collapse it was vital that we in the West 
should come to a good understanding with her on 
matters of strategy, finance, and equipment supply. 

Lord Kitchener had pre-eminently possessed the 
right qualifications for this mission. Now that he 
was gone, it became a question of finding someone 
suitable to replace him. 

The obvious and in fact inevitable person for this 
mission was Sir William Robertson. As Chief of 
the Imperial General Staff he possessed 
Sir William the necessary status, prestige, and quali- 
invitedto eo fications. The only conceivable alternative 
would have been General Haig, the 
Commander-in-Chief, who clearly could not be 
spared from France in the middle of a great offensive. 
True, Robertson was not an authority on finance, 
but this could be got over by sending Lord Reading 
with him to deal with questions of that nature which 
needed to be settled. 

Robertson made difficulties. The Somme offensive 
was in full blast, and he was very busy with the 
arrangements it involved. Time slipped by, and 
when we reached the latter part of September I felt 



AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR 


771 


it was imperative to bring matters to a head ; for 
Archangel was ice-bound in winter, and winter 
would soon be here. 

Accordingly I wrote the following letter to Mr. 
Asquith : — 

44 War Office, 

26th September, 19 iG. 

Confidential. 

My dear Prime Minister, 

Before you come to a final decision on the 
suggestion that I made to you this morning, as I 
attach very great importance to sorae- 
My letter to thing being done on those lines, I should 
2 'of26'p’i6 h to put before you once more the 
considerations which convinced me that 
action on this matter is essential. I have thought 
so for some time. 

1. The tone of some of the communications 
from Petrograd indicates a good deal of irritation 
against us in Russian official, and specially in 
Russian military circles. 

2. The Germanophil influences have been 
considerably strengthened in the Russian Govern- 
ment by recent changes. Our friends have dis- 
appeared one by one and there is no man now 
of any influence in the Russian Bureaucracy who 
can be said to be favourable towards this 
country. 

3. The Russians, like all peasant peoples, are 
very suspicious of a trading and financial com- 
munity. They always imagine that we are trying 
to get the better of them in a bargain. The mere 
fact that their suspicion is a ridiculous one to a 
business man does not in the least affect the 


VOL. II 


p 



772 


WAR MEMOIRS 


peasant mind. They have undoubtedly got it 
into their heads that we are anxious to make 
money out of them. This suspicion must be 
removed. 

4. It is not a question of terms but of atmo- 
sphere. The Russian is a simple and, I think, 
a good fellow, and once we win his trust there 
will be no difficulty in doing business with him. 
We must therefore take some striking action 
which would clear away these suspicious vapours 
that obscure the real issues. I therefore urge the 
importance of sending immediately to Russia 
emissaries of high standing with full powers to 
clear up the situation. It is a misfortune that 
Bark and Bylaeff left before an agreement was 
arrived at. But that is past. 

5. Whoever is sent must not merely possess 
authority, but must be known by the Russians to 
be a person or persons of high standing and 
influence in this country. I would strongly urge 
that Sir William Robertson and Lord Reading 
be asked to go. As to Sir William Robertson, 
his standing here is known to the military 
authorities in Russia, and for the moment they 
are the only people who count in Russia. The 
bureaucrats are poor creatures. He could 
discuss with General Alexeieff the military dis- 
positions for next year. It is important these two 
men should meet. Up to the present the 
Russians have never conferred with the Western 
Powers as to military plans. Men like General 
Gilinski, who represented the Russian Armies in 
Paris, are worse than of no account ; and I am 
afraid that if there is a second Chantilly con- 
ference Alexeieff either cannot or will not send 



AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR 773 

anyone who will have full power to decide the 
outlines of the next campaign. The eastern 
generals probably concentrate their minds too 
exclusively on the east, and I am not sure that 
the western generals are not inclined to commit 
a similar error by limiting their views too much 
to the countries where their forces are operating. 
It would be a good thing for both General 
Robertson and for General AlexeiefF that they 
should interchange views, and the decision 
arrived at by these two great soldiers after such 
an interchange might very well be decisive. 

As for Lord Reading, he has the high standing 
and the necessary diplomatic gifts and the know- 
ledge of finance which would enable him success- 
fully to achieve an understanding with Russia. 

I am afraid of the present misunderstanding 
developing into strained relations. It would 
probably not produce a rupture during the progress 
of the War, but it would certainly have a very 
sinister influence upon the peace negotiations. 

Ever sincerely, 

D. Lloyd George. 

P.S. — There has already been a delay of some 
months in ordering essential military material for 
Russia, and I am apprehensive that Russian 
generals will attribute failures — due to their own 
shortcomings — to our delay in furnishing them with 
financial assistance.” 

My proposal in regard to Sir William Robertson 
was shattered against the rock of personal suspicions. 
He was already predisposed to imagine that I would 
welcome his absence from the War Office, and there 
were those in the Cabinet who were resolutely hostile 



WAR MEMOIRS 


774 

to anything I did or suggested, who deliberately en- 
couraged Robertson to refuse the proposed mission. 
Indeed, one of them subsequently admitted that he 
had advised Robertson not to go. As a consequence, 
I received on the next day this letter from the 
C.I.G.S. 


“ War Office. 

27/9/16. 

6.15 p.m. 

Dear Mr. Lloyd George, 

The Prime Minister has just sent for me to discuss 
the Russian visit. I have thought it well over since 
Sir William. Y ou spoke to me this morning and have 
Robertson concluded that it is impossible for me to 
refuses to go: make the visit without losing entire control 
his letter over War, and this at an important 
time. I quite realise the force of what you say, but 
if I went I should be away for at least a month and 
that is much too long if I am to keep my hand on 
the many problems we are dealing with. 

I am honestly very sorry not to be able to fall in 
with your proposal, and as I told the P.M., if I am 
asked to go — I shall go, but my opinion is that I 
ought not to go, if I am of any use as C.I.G.S. 

Callwell got on well when he went. He would 
be better than no one ! 

Believe me, I am sorry, but I must tell you what 
I feel about the necessity for my remaining at my 
post. 

Yours very truly, 

W. R. Robertson.” 

With this refusal the proposed mission to Russia 
collapsed, and our chance of coming to a real under- 



AT THE MINISTRY FOR WAR 


775 

standing with our great Ally in the east was lost until 
it was too late to save Russia from her final collapse. 

Such news as came through to us during the 
autumn of 1916 from Russia showed what a fatal 
blunder the abandonment of the mission 
Bad news was proving. All the omens were pointing 
fiom Russia to a breakdown of the Russian military 
effort and to a separate peace with 
Germany. At the end of July, Sazonow, faithfully 
pro-Ally, had been intrigued out of the Russian 
Foreign Ministry and been replaced by Sturmer, 
who was suspected, not without reason, of pro- 
German leanings. The King of Sweden (who was 
pro-German in sympathy) had remarked to the British 
Ambassador at Stockholm, on hearing this news, that 
there would be peace between Russia and Germany 
in two months ! Though this prophecy was unfulfilled, 
it was based on a true insight into the trend of affairs 
in Russia. 

Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador in 
Petrograd, mentioned in a private letter to Lord Charles 
Beresford on 17th October the prevalence of rumours 
of a separate peace, which Sturmer had officially 
denied, and reported the growth of a pro-German 
sentiment in influential circles. In a further letter of 
28th October he stressed the progress which pro- 
German and anti-British propaganda was making, 
and added : “ The losses which Russia 
War weariness has suffered in this war are so colossal 
growing that the whole country is in mourning ; 

and so many lives have been uselessly 
sacrificed during the recent unsuccessful attacks 
against Kovel and other places that the impression 
seems to be gaining ground with many people that 
it is useless going on, more especially as Russia, 



WAR MEMOIRS 


776 

unlike Great Britain, has nothing to gain by pro- 
longing the war . . . with the people becoming 
every day more discontented and with a man likp 
Sturmer at the head of the Government, I cannot help 
feeling anxious.” 

On 30th November, Lord Rhondda sent me a 
series of memoranda written by a British officer 
stationed at Archangel, recording his impression 
gleaned on a visit to Petrograd and Moscow. He, too, 
was impressed with the strength of German propa- 
ganda and war weariness among the mass of the 
nation. “ From the highest to the lowest all are of 
opinion that the spirit of the Russian populace in the 
big cities of late has fallen very greatly,” he wrote. 
“ The chief cause, of course, of this change in national 
morale is the extreme difficulty of getting the first 
necessities of life, even at any price, and the now 
universal necessity of standing in long queues in the 
big towns to get a small supply of such articles as 
milk, black and white bread, butter and/or cheese, 
sugar, tea and coffee, meat, fish, etc. . . . These 
queues form an excellent field of opera- 
Effects of tions for agents of German propaganda, 
propaganda w here it is subtly hinted and often even 
openly asserted by people standing waiting 
their turn that all this misery is merely being suffered 
for the aggrandisement of England. . . .” 

Then came the following prophetic sentences : — 

“ • ■ • The next three months are the critical 
period. . . . Either the Government will yield or 
there will be a coup d’itat, or, if neither of these 
things happen, Russia will have to stop fighting and 
make peace, with disastrous results.” 

This informant urged that measures of counter- 
propaganda should be initiated with the utmost 



at the ministry for war 777 

dispatch. “ It is only with the most assiduous ana 
patient nursing that the Russian Government and 
people can be led through another one or two years 
of war and hardship, and no effort or compara- 
tively trifling expense should be spared in achieving 

But the warning was too late. The ice had already 
closed round Archangel. Before it melted again in 
the spring, Russia had crashed into 
revolution, and all hope of reinforcing 
Too late | icr as an Allied Power was at an end. 



CHAPTER XXVII 


SIR WILLIAM ROBERTSON 

Sir William Robertson was one of the enigmas of 
the War. He was not a great soldier, but that he 
possessed an outstanding personality is beyond ques- 
tion. The fact that there was such a wide diversity 
of opinion and such an acute controversy as to his 
gifts and character is sufficient proof that he was no 
common man. No one in so exclusive 
A remarkable a profession as the Army, where social 
career prestige and accomplishment count for so 

much, could have risen from the humblest 
upbringing and the lowliest rank to the topmost 
heights which he occupied unless he possessed talents 
well above his fellows. He was industrious, steady, 
intelligent ; all the administrative tasks entrusted to 
him, whether as ranker, N.G.O., or commissioned 
officer, he discharged competently and with dis- 
tinction. He was an excellent organiser. He had, 
during his military career, few opportunities, if any, 
of leading men in the field. His experience had been 
of an administrative kind, and here he 
Administrative was a conspicuous success. In that 
ability respect amongst all the generals, he was 
second only to Sir John Cowans. He had 
other qualities which made for speedy promotion in 
the Army. He was cautious and discreet. His 

778 



SIR WILLIAM ROBERTSON 779 

massive reticence made a deep impression on all 
whose duty it was to seek his opinion. 

A laconic sentence, or often a mere grunt which 
might signify anything, was all that he vouchsafed in 
answer to the most anxious searcher after truth on 
our military position. He was non-committal but he 
was sternly orthodox. Such mistakes therefore as he 
committed were all of the negative kind, and as these 
were always in accordance with Army regulations 
and traditions they counted in his favour and helped 
his promotion. He understood the Army better than 
any of his rivals.* 

Such men always get on in any vocation. These 
qualities of circumspection in judgment and speech 
lead even shrewd and experienced observers of all 
sorts and conditions of men to infer that there is a 
vast mental hinterland unexplored and unrevealed. 
Mr. Asquith declared Robertson to be “ the greatest 
strategist of the day . 35 That he most certainly was 
not. But his oracular monosyllables and grunts 
misled much abler men than himself. Of his abilities 
I have already spoken. Some of his limitations I have 
indicated. His mind was sound but commonplace. 
He was cautious to the point of timidity. There lay 
his strength — that also accounted for his drawbacks. 
A general who takes no risks or leaves them to others 
never won a difficult campaign. 

When I first met him he had reached a very 

* Extract from Times obituary leading article : . . . he was not 

a genius, except in Carlyle’s definition. There was no meteoric brilliance 
about him ; his imagination was commonplace. . . . That is the true 
lesson of Robertson’s career. Genius dazzles by its splendour ; but it is 
possible to see this man exactly as he was, to watch each of the struggles which 
he made, and to understand completely the reasons why he triumphed. There 
is excuse in genius for failure to emulate it ; Robertson’s career offers no 
excuse. What he did any man or boy of ordinary attainments can do also, 
provided that he is willing to make the necessary sacrifices of immediate 
leisure and comfort.” 



780 WAR MEMOIRS 

considerable position in the military hierarchy. He 
was Chief of the Staff to the Commander-in- 
First Chief of the Expeditionary F orce in F ranee. 

impressions I w as certainly impressed at my first 
acquaintance with him. I saw a good 
deal of him later on in the War and I came gradually 
to understand his powers and his limitations. 

He had a profound and disturbing suspicion of all 
foreigners ; if I may use a fruit grower’s vocabulary, 
Robertson had the canker of xenophobia in his very 
sap and that vitiated the quality of his product. In a 
war conducted by an alliance of several nations it 
was essential to victory that there should be a sound 
and broad interpretation of the policy of the single 
front. In the order of his distrust came 
Distrust of Frenchmen, first and deepest of all, then 
foreigners Italians, Serbians, Greeks, Celts, and 
last of all — if at all — Germans. The 

Austrians had no existence for him except in his 
arithmetical tables. They were not near the Western 
Front and did not otherwise obtrude their hostile 
presence into his strategical conceptions. The French 
always irritated him and brought out all his stubborn- 
ness. That is why they called him General “ Non- 
non ” ; that represented his first impulse 
General towards all their requests and proposals. 
“ Non-non ” Briand once said to me : “ Rob-berrt-son 
says ‘ Non ’ before he has heard what your 
proposal is about.” 

Of the Germans he had a very high opinion and no 
dislike. In 1916, when the German Army 
Admiration was making its stubborn defence of the 
for the Germans slush on the Somme plateau, he said to 
me : “ If we and the Boche were together, 
we would have beaten the whole lot of them 




(Photo ■ Elliott & Fry ) 


Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson, D.S.O. 
Chief of Imperial General Staff, 1915-1917. 




SIR WILLIAM ROBERTSON 781 

long ago.” When the fighting was at its worst he did 
not hesitate to express his opinion in a discussion on 
Peace Terms, that a strong Germany in Central 
Europe was vital to the preservation of Peace. His 
memorandum on that subject rose in parts to the 
heights of statesmanship. After a week’s reflection on 
his own temerity he withdrew the memorandum and 
cancelled it. He would have been much more 
effective as a politician than as a soldier. Since he 
has already passed away I can express this opinion 
without inflicting the hurt it would inevitably have 
caused him. 

I shall have a good deal to say later on as to his 
fitness for the position of Chief of the Imperial General 
Staff. I do not believe he ever visualised 
Defects as the full significance and responsibility of 
C.I.G.S. that great position. His function ought 
to have been that of Chief Military- 
Adviser to the Cabinet on the War as a whole. Sir 
Douglas Haig, Sir Archibald Murray, Sir John 
Maxwell, General Milne and General Maude 
were all sectional generals, and their minds were 
bound to be concentrated in the main, if not 
entirely, upon the problem of defeating the army 
immediately in front of them, but the C.I.G.S. 
ought to have realised that it was his duty to 
supervise and to co-ordinate efforts on all the battle- 
fields. He came into full authority when the British 
contribution to the War in men, material, money and 
ships had grown to vast dimensions and was still 
growing. We were therefore entitled not indeed to 
impose our ideas upon our Allies or to dictate to them, 
but to impress and insist much more than we did. 
Our chief failure in thfe first three campaigns of the 
War was in co-ordination of forces and resources. 



782 WAR MEMOIRS 

in a full realisation of what the united front meant 
strategically. Robertson rendered no help in over- 
coming this calamitous defect. From the moment he 
became C.I.G.S. he hindered and thwarted at every 
turn every effort to concentrate and distribute the 
aggregate power of the Allies in such a way as to 
achieve the surest and speediest results. I felt pro- 
foundly that in this respect he completely failed the 
statesmen whom he derided, but ought to have 
guided. 

Sir Douglas Haig was a stronger man. I doubt 
whether he was abler than Robertson, but he had 
Comparison better fighting qualities. He was a man 
with Sir of more indomitable will and courage. 

Douglas He was also Robertson’s senior ; that 

Hais counts in every profession but most of all 

in the Army and Navy. Other qualifications being 
fairly equal, seniority has always the say. That is 
why, whenever I saw these two men together, I felt 
that Haig dominated, over-awed and almost bullied 
his junior. Robertson was not endowed with that 
intrepidity in thought and action that makes great 
generals. 

There was a rigidity about Robertson’s physical 
movements which gave an indication of his lack of 
mental suppleness and adaptability. He 
Dislike of did not argue, he shrank from being 

arguments involved in argument and he hated 
contention ; one reason being that he 
was very sensitive about any challenge to his personal 
or official dignity in word or deed. When the Wool- 
wich workers were making some trouble on a question 
of time or wages, Dr. Addison invited Sir William 
Robertson to address then! on the urgency of 
their work. He thought that a few words from so 



SIR WILLIAM ROBERTSON 


distinguished a soldier might appease them. When, 
however, the two reached the hall they found it filled 
with a raging and noisy crowd who hurled questions 
at the visitors without respect to stars or stripes. The 
Chief of the Imperial Staff was offended at that kind 
of reception. He felt his dignity would be impaired 
by arguing with a tumult, so he declined to speak and 
left the meeting to Dr. Addison. 

He rarely intervened in Council and I never heard 
him take much part in discussion with Allied generals. 
At these conferences between the soldiers and sailors of 
the Allies, Robertson usually sat at the table in gruff 
silence. His protests were frequent, but generally 
inarticulate. He thoroughly disapproved of Foch, 
Nivelle, Joffre, and Lyautey, but he never con- 
descended to dispute with them. He seemed bored, 
if not overpowered by the voluble confidence of the 
French generals. When I attended the 
Uew of Rome Conference in 1917, M. Briand 
Lyautey and General Lyautey, who was then 

Secretary of State for War in France, 
travelled by the same train. Late at night Lyautey 
sent for Sir William Robertson and myself to his 
saloon. He had a map of Palestine in front of him, 
and from this he proceeded to deliver a very lengthy 
lecture on the strategy of a campaign for the conquest 
of Jerusalem. Robertson never uttered a word of 
approval or dissent ; he let out an occasional grunt, 
and when Lyautey had concluded his address, he 
turned to me and said : “ Has he finished ? ” I told 
him I thought he had. We got up, and on our way 
back to the British carriage he said to me : “ That 
fellow won’t last long.” Nor did he, for his demission 
ensued in a very few weeks. 

Robertson’s appearance gave no idea of the essential 



WAR MEMOIRS 


geniality and kindliness of the man. In repose his 
facial expression was sullen, if not rather 
Geniality morose ; in conversation he melted and 
and humour often became entertaining, so long as you 
did not venture on a topic on which he 
disagreed with you. In that case he found refuge in 
glumness. 

He could be full of fun. I recollect returning from 
a visit to Paris with him and Lord Kitchener. In the 
train there was a good deal of pleasant chaff inter- 
changed between us. Lord Kitchener was giving 
an account of his house down in Kent to which he 
was very attached. He complained, however, that 
there was no water in the particular valley in which 
he had built his residence, but it added to his grievance 
that there was plenty of water in the valleys on either 
side. Robertson said : “ Then why don’t you make 
a tunnel from one of these valleys to draw water into 
your own ? ” This idea amused the great sapper. 

Personally I was attracted by Robertson and would 
have liked to have been able to work with him to the 
very end. That is a story I must tell in another 
volume. 



CHAPTER XXVT1I 


TRANSPORT 

Sir Douglas Haig once told Sir Eric Geddes that the 
problem of warfare consisted of “ three M’s ” : Men, 
Munitions, Movement. I tell elsewhere 
The three in this story the way men were supplied 

“ M’s ” to our military authorities by civilian 

organisers, and the use or misuse that 
was made of them ; I have shown how those same 
authorities proved unable to organise the production 
of their munitions, and had to remit this task to 
politicians and men of business. Now I have to show 
how the professional soldiers who fought so valiantly 
in the stricken area also found themselves unable to 
cope with the vast problem of Movement which this 
unprecedented war set before them, and how here 
again disaster was narrowly averted by the aid of the 
civilian expert. I am not arraigning the professional 
soldier, but only the supercilious folly miles behind 
the shell area which stigmatised all civilian aid in the 
construction or direction of the war machine as 
unwarranted interference by ignorant amateurs. 

It is of course hardly surprising, when one recalls 
Immense task the gigantic scope of the transport prob- 
of army lem — the millions of men with their 

transport equipment, baggage, horses, etc., which 

for B.E.F. h a( i t 0 be moved to and from France 
and from one front to another ; their colossal daily 

785 



WAR MEMOIRS 


786 


supplies of food, fodder, ammunition, tools, trench 
warfare supplies ; medical and surgical stores and 
evacuation of wounded — that elderly officers who 
had reached seniority after years of service under the 
rather rigid conventions of a small army, and with 
no practical experience of traffic on a large and 
continuous scale, would not necessarily be competent 
to work out the best method of dealing with this vast 
tangle of unanticipated transport. It required an 
exceptional experience which they had never obtained, 
and exceptional organising ability which the process 
of their selection could not guarantee. 

Quite early in the work of the Ministry of Munitions 


I encountered this failure of the military to organise 
Transport unprecedented transport, and that no 
problem in further away than within the walls of 
Woolwich Woolwich Arsenal. When I took over 

Arsenal Woolwich in August, 1915, and I put Mr. 

Vincent Raven in charge of it, he found himself 
responsible for a bewildering range of factories and 
departments, occupying an area of about 3J miles 
long by 2J miles wide, with about 150 miles of internal 


railway track for bringing in and distributing its 
supplies of raw material and evacuating its output. 


There was not enough rolling stock. The system 
was so confused that it was impossible to get the raw 
material into the Arsenal, to get the finished goods out, 
or to move stuff efficiently from place to place within 
the Arsenal itself. Traffic was hopelessly congested. 
He had to get a special expert in from one of the 
railway companies to take charge, and organise the 
system of transport. He speedily got things on to an 
efficient footing. 

But the real crux of the transport problem was the 
connecting links between the French ports and the 



TRANSPORT 


front line, 
and 


men 


movement of gtogcls 
the 


Problem of 
transport in 
France 


and 


were 


On this side, the 
in Britain, and their dispatch to 
French coast, were organised by our 
own highly efficient railway chiefs and 
shipping services. Once landed in France, 
they came on the French railway system, 
badgered and disorganised by inexpert 
officers who were trying to wring from it services on a 
scale hitherto unconceived. As might have been 
expected, the result was confusion, congestion and 
delay. 

While I was Minister of Munitions I sent Geddes 
over to France on one occasion, with the permission 
of the War Office, to look into some matter of the 
recovery and transport of salvage. The account 
he gave me on his return of the transport situation 
was so disquieting that I suggested to Lord Kitchener 
that he should be sent to make an investigation and 
report, with a view to its better organisation. But 
Lord Kitchener now held the opinion that these were 
purely military matters, into the sanctity of which no 
profane civilian must be allowed to intrude. He was 
by this time suffering from that growing inertia and 
ossification of the mind which so gravely impaired 
his usefulness during his last months of office. 

Shortly before I left the Ministry of Munitions it 
was reported to me from France that there was a 
shortage of ammunition. On enquiry 
Block in J found that this was in no way due to 
failure on our part to produce it. In 
fact our munition factories were becoming 
choked up with completed output because the base 
depots in France were too congested to receive it. 

On the day on which the death of Lord Kitchener 
was reported. Sir Eric Geddes, whose special work 

VOL. II Q, 


ammunition 

transport 



WAR MEMOIRS 


788 


had been so much hampered by the failure in transport 
facilities, came to see me on the subject of transport. 
It appeared that in reply to a request from the War 
Office for an estimate as to output of artillery 
ammunition from 1st July onwards, the figure of 
1,000,000 rounds per week had been given. Of the 
possibility of this production the War Office was 
frankly sceptical, and stated that even if it were 
produced it could not be conveyed either across the 
Channel or to the front owing to the congested state 
of the ports and roads, and that in any event the guns 
could not fire it. In view of the fact that the last 
advance estimate of the Ministry had been exactly 
fulfilled, and in view of all our efforts to produce 
what the Army wanted, this attitude was, to say the 
least of it, somewhat exasperating. 

As soon as I became Secretary of State for War in 
July, 1916, I sent through Lord Derby, who was then 
Efforts to get m Y Under-Secretary, a request to Sir 
Sir Eric Geddes Douglas Haig that he should invite Sir 
invited to Eric Geddes to go over and look into the 
matter of transport. But my suggestion 
was not favourably received. The day after I 
learnt this I was going over myself to France to 
visit the whole of the front from Verdun to Flanders. 
When I reached Paris I saw Lord Esher, who was 
located there in his usual post of general adviser to 
everybody and liaison officer between everybody and 


My visit to 
Sir Douglas 
Haig 


anybody — a most useful kind of person 
if he possesses tact, discernment, and 
experience. Lord Esher had these 
qualities in a superlative degree. He was 


a friendly and helpful personage with a great know- 


ledge of military things and people. I told him all 


my misgivings about transport and Haig’s polite 



snub to Derby. I said that I had sent Derby because 
I thought he was a special favourite of the Com- 
mander-in- Chief ! He did not confirm that im- 
pression and said : “ Go there yourself and talk quite 
frankly about the whole position. Talk to Haig 
himself about it and refuse to be referred to his staff. 
Your only difficulty will be that although Haig is not 
a good judge of men he stands by them with stubborn 
loyalty to all, whatever their quality. But if you can 
show him that essential supplies are being kept from 
his army during the progress of a great battle, he will 
listen and look into the matter.” I took his advice, 
drove straight to G.H.Q,. and stayed the night at Sir 
Douglas Haig’s chateau. He received me with great 
cordiality, and gave me the usual sanguine estimate 
of the progress and prospects of the Somme offensive. 
Casualties were omitted from the narrative. When I 
approached him on the subject of transport I decided 
that it would be better not to discuss merits or details, 
but to ask him to see Sir Eric Geddes and afford him 
an opportunity for seeing the transport arrangements 
and reporting to him on their condition. To this 
suggestion he assented with alacrity, as it enabled 
him to get out of what might turn into a disagreeable 
discussion with the new Secretary of State for War. 
I was equally pleased because I felt assured that he 
would now treat the proposal for a change not as an 
arraignment of his organisation of the war front but 
as a method of helping him at a critical moment. 
With his agreement I wired Sir Eric Geddes an 
invitation to pay a visit to G.H.Q^. and inspect 
transport arrangements. 

Sir Eric went over and spent two days there. He 
was treated, needless to say, with perfect courtesy. 
At the end of the time the Commander-in-Chief 



WAR MEMOIRS 


/ 9 ° 

asked him if he had seen everything, and Geddes 
answered that he had seen enough to think about, 
but did not know what to think yet. 
Sir Eric Geddes He stayed a few days longer, but then 
goes ovet had to tell Haig that he had been shown 
nothing which the ordinary distinguished 
tourist would not have been shown ; and that what 
he wanted was a month, in which time he would 
an alyse the problem and produce a report and 
programme. 

Very fortunately. Sir Eric Geddes and Sir Douglas 
Haig had by this time taken warmly to each other. 

Sir Douglas later on stated that he 
His friendship “ recognised in him the very qualities 
with Haig which the army in the field required.” 

The upshot was that the Commander-in- 
Chief invited the railway expert to come and spend 
a month making a thorough investigation and evolving 
a programme for the transport system. Sir Eric went 
as a civilian, with a small expert civilian staff to assist 
him. There never was a more efficient group. He 
also took with him Sir George Beharrell and 
General Mance, D.D.M. at the War Office, whom I 
lent him for the purpose, and Sir Philip 
A programme Nash, who with Beharrell had been 
prepared. working under Geddes in the Ministry 
of Munitions. In France he further added 
to his staff General Freeland, who was on the staff 
of the Director of Railways at G.H.Q,. With these 
assistants he prepared a programme of transport 
improvement, including a light railway system for 
serving the forward areas behind the front line. 

On Sir Eric’s return I appointed him Director of 
Military Railways at the War Office. This brought 
me to my first conflict with the military members 



TRANSPORT 


of the Army Council. The appointment had to 
be sanctioned by the Council. One of the generals 
Geddes sitting around the table, speaking ob- 

appoinied viously on behalf of the rest, protested 
D.M.R.at against a civilian appointment which 
Wat Ojfh.e overrode or circumscribed the authority 
of experienced and respected generals already dis- 
charging these functions to everybody’s satisfaction. 
I challenged this statement and submitted facts which 
proved serious confusion and congestion, from the 
ports to Amiens, at Amiens, and from Amiens to 
the front. Sir William Robertson sat glum during 
the discussions. Ultimately the appointment was 
sanctioned. The military members met and decided 
to send me a formal written protest. Immediately I 
received it I summoned another meeting of the Army- 
Council and asked the protestors to state their case. 
The same spokesman repeated his arguments — the 
rest were silent and once more the appointment was 
confirmed. The following morning Sir John Cowans 
came to see me. He looked a little shy and em- 
barrassed. He told me the military members of the 
Council had met and drawn up a document which 
they had asked him to present to me. He put on his 
great horn spectacles and drew a foolscap paper from 
his pocket. I stopped him and asked him whether 
it had anything to do with the Geddes appointment, 
and when he answered in the affirmative I told him 
that this matter was finally settled and I declined 
to re-open it. He smiled and said “ I thought you 
would say so. This paper is therefore of no use.” 
He then tore it up and laughed. Thus ended my first 
encounter with the military members. I got on 
much better with them afterwards. 

No sooner had Geddes taken up his post than Sir 



WAR MEMOIRS 


792 

Douglas Haig wired that he wanted Geddes to join 
his staff in France as Director-General 
of Transportation. This created a 
difficult situation, for I did not want to 
lose him, in view of the important 
transport reforms I wished him to inaugurate at the 
War Office, and Geddes himself was by no means 
eager to go to France, knowing as he did what bitter 
jealousy of the interloper would be felt by some of the 
staff officers who had hitherto had charge of transport 
there. However, General Butler, who had come over 
from the Commander-in-Chief as a special emissary 
to secure the services of Geddes in France, was so 
insistent and persuasive that we eventually made a 
compromise. It was agreed that Sir Eric should 
hold the two positions simultaneously ; while re- 
maining Director of Military Railways, he should 
also become Director-General of Transportation in 
France, and thus be in a position to place his railway 
experience and remarkable gifts of organisation alike 
at the service of the War Office and the Expeditionary 
Force. He had two deputies, Sir Guy Granet at the 
War Office and Sir Philip Nash at G.H.Q,. in France, 
t%vo experienced railway managers. 

There was the inevitable and anticipated dis- 
gruntlement in some quarters among the staff at 
G.H.Q, over this appointment. Certain indignant 
generals tendered their resignations. They started 
a rumour — only too readily believed in some quarters 
— that I was up to the politicians’ trick of forcing 
unwanted civilians on the Army, and interfering with 
the military authorities. 

To dispose finally of the suggestion that I exercised 
my authority to force Sir Douglas Haig to dismiss a 
competent military staff in order to substitute civilians 


Call for 
kis services 
in France 



TRANSPORT 


who knew nothing of war conditions, I would like 
to quote a letter written to Sir Eric by the Commander- 
in-Chief : — 


“ General Headquarters of British 
Army in France, 

Friday, September 22, 1916. 

My dear Geddes, 

Butler has told me of his interview with you, 
and I am very pleased to think that you are prepared 
to join me here and help in beating the 
Sir Douglas Germans for the good of the Empire. 
j oGeddes ^ ^ ^cmld be grateful if you would 

come over and see me in order that there 
may be no misunderstanding as to the conditions 
on which you are prepared to help. 

After full consideration of the organisation which 
you proposed to me on your last visit, I am most 
willing and anxious that you should take over 
complete charge of Transportation services of 
the Army in France. That is to say that you would 
have under your control : — 

(a) Broad gauge railways. 

( b ) Narrow gauge railways. 

(c) Inland water transport. 

(1 d ) Roads. 

and that whilst working under instructions from 
my Q.M.G. you will have direct access to me, and 
will be in the closest touch with me and my General 
Staff in order to know our plans so as to look ahead 
in time and provide for our future needs. . . . 
Looking forward to seeing you, 

Believe me, 

Yours very truly, 

D. Haig.” 



WAR MEMOIRS 


794 

The appointment also called forth the following 
exchange of letters between the Commander-in-Chief 
and myself : — 

“ War Office, 

27th September, 1916. 

My dear General, 

Geddes has told me that you have asked him 
to become your Chief Executive Officer for Trans- 
My porta tion in France. I had as you know 

exchange of already appointed him to a similar 
letters with position in this country. I have told 
the C.-in-C. t j iat j would approve his undertaking 
complete responsibility for the work upon both 
sides of the Channel if you wish him to do so. 
The main thing, to my mind, is that he should 
be given a very free hand and the personal support 
of yourself and myself. If you decide to appoint 
him on your Staff I hope you will find it possible 
to make these conditions so far as France is con- 
cerned. I am doing so in England. He will have 
direct access to me and then I shall be able to 
take a close personal interest in supporting the full 
development of your transportation policy. 

Yours sincerely, 

D. Lloyd George. 

General Sir Douglas Haig, G.C.B., etc.” 

The General’s reply was as follows : — 

“ General Headquarters, 

British Armies in France, 

1st October, 1916. 

My dear Mr. Lloyd George, 

I thank you for your letter of the 27th September. 

I am writing officially to the War Office on the 



TRANSPORT 


795 

subject of Geddes’ appointment, but reserving 
various details for further discussion here with my 
Quartermaster-General and Inspector-General of 
Communications. 

It is my intention to give Geddes as free a hand 
as possible and to give him my personal support, 
but it is essential that changes shall be made 
gradually and without upsetting the existing or- 
ganisation, which has done excellent work under 
very difficult conditions and has never failed me 
up to date. 

Yours very truly, 

D. Haig.” 

Within a month Sir Eric had established his 
headquarters for the B.E.F. Transport at a little 
place three miles from Montreuil, called 

ff^Geddes" 1 ^ ont ^ lou ^ s ’ anc ^ before long destined to 
f urs es " become famous under the soubriquet 
of “ Geddesburg.” From this centre 
Geddes organised the improved transport system 
which functioned so splendidly during the latter 
part of the War. 

For a man of Sir Eric’s railway experience the 
problem was not a very difficult one. It called 
chiefly for expert knowledge in the handling of 
traffic and the capacity to think on an adequate 
scale and then act promptly. The military transport 
authorities had been trying all along to “ make do ” 
with a totally insufficient transport system. The 
French railways in the area had been placed at 
their disposal, and over these and over French 
country roads, neither of which had been designed 
to bear a tithe of such weight and volume of traffic, 
they were trying to move their troops and stores. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


796 


Naturally the machine broke down. There was an 
efficient service from depot or factory in Britain up 
to the French port. But the assembling yards 
behind the ports were the point of greatest 
Assembling weakness, having become a real bottle- 
’organised neck which strangled the traffic flow. 

When the goods finally got past and on 
to the railheads, which were placed perhaps as much 
as fifteen miles behind the front line, they had to be 
conveyed forward this distance over broken-down 
roads which were simultaneously being used for 
movement of troops. 


Putting experienced railway men in charge of the 
assembling yards helped to relieve the congestion 
there. But the first big innovation which Sir Eric 
undertook was the construction of light narrow-gauge 
railways in the forward areas to move supplies 
from the broad-gauge railheads up to the line. Till 
this time there were no light railways at all. He 
framed a programme for an eventual 


Light railways i ,000 miles of light railway with rolling- 
constiucted stock to correspond. The first stage in 
the execution of that programme involved 
an order for 1,000 miles of light steel rails, and one 


stormy autumn night I was awakened in the small 
hours at the Crillon, where I was staying on a visit to 
France, by a dispatch rider bringing Sir Eric’s report 
setting out the proposal for this requisition. I read and 
initialled it, and it was rushed back to “ Geddes- 


burg ” in time for Beharrell to fly with it to Boulogne 
and catch the 9 o’clock boat in the morning. He 
arrived in London and dismayed Sir Ernest Moir 
with the size of the requisition. But Sir Ernest duly 
produced the goods, and by June, 1917, the whole 
1,000 miles of light railway were complete. The 



TRANSPORT 


797 


dimensions of the task may be judged when I say 
that the 1,000 miles of narrow-gauge track involved 
60,000 tons of steel for rails and sleepers, apart from 
the requirements of rolling stock. I may add here 
that in the autumn of 1917 a further 900 miles of 
light railway were ordered, and that up to the end 
of the War the total length supplied reached well 
over 4,000 miles. 

The congestion behind the ports in France could 
only be removed by increasing the capacity of the 
standard-gauge lines to clear the imported goods 
away. Sir Eric made arrangements with Sir 
Ernest Moir about the provision of supplies for 


this purpose. 

At the end of November he put forward his pro- 
gramme for additional standard-gauge lines. Hitherto 
the Army had relied mainly on the 
Programme existing French lines, and though in the 

f °auge n hms d two Y ears I 9 I 5 - ][6 Britain had supplied 
the French Government with over 150 
locomotives and 2,300 tons of railway material for 
maintenance of its railways, very little had been 
done to supplement the existing system with any 
British military railway additions. Sir Eric’s new 
programme was for 1,200 miles of standard-gauge 
line, 300 new large main-line locomotives, and about 
9,000 wagons. Sir Douglas Haig backed this up by- 
paying a personal visit to this country at the beginning 
of December, and on 12th December wrote asking 
for means to carry out large schemes of doubling 
lines and building new lines, connecting lines, 


depots and extensions. 

When I say that 1,200 miles of standard-gauge 
track involved 160,000 tons of steel, or 6,000 tons a 
week for six months, it will be seen that Sir Eric 



WAR MEMOIRS 


798 


was not afraid to “ think big.” The support accorded 
to him by the Commander-in-Chief shows also that 
he had taught G.H.Q^. to share his outlook. By 
June, 1917, nearly all this huge order had been 
completed, and a requisition for a further 1,000 miles 
had been received. 

With the expansion of the railways, the congestion 
at the ports was reduced. It was possible to clear 
the quays and speed up the discharge of cargoes 
when the bottle-neck beyond had been broadened. 

The roads were another vital link in the transport 
system. They are, of course, the first requisite for 
organised military operations, a fact of 
Road which the Romans were well aware when 

construction they constructed their great military high- 
ways. Throughout the War the roads of 
France were subject to terrific strain, and in the 
forward area, before the light railways were con- 
structed, they were the only means of movement for 
both troops and stores. Of course, they got knocked 
to pieces, and for some time no proper effort was 
made to keep them in repair. 

Sir Eric Geddes made arrangements for the 
systematic repair and construction of roadways. The 
stone for them was mainly quarried in France. 
The work was done to a large extent by prisoners 
of war. 


Before leaving the subject of roads, I should like 
to pay a tribute to the fine work which Sir Henry 


Work of Sir 

Henry 

Alaybury 


Maybury did in organising this branch 
of our transport facilities. On the forma- 
tion of the Transportation Department 
at “ Geddesburg,” Sir Henry Maybury 


was brought over to take charge of the road con- 


struction work, the maintenance of the existing 




(Photo: Press Portrait Bureau 

Sir Eric Geddes, G.C.B. 




TRANSPORT 


799 

roads, and building of new ones, particularly where 
the front moved forward. The mobility of our road 
transport in the latter part of the War was due in a 
high degree to his efforts.* 

Closely connected with the transport developments 
was the recruitment of the Chinese Auxiliary Corps 
by Sir Eric Geddes, who sent an officer 
Chinese to China to recruit 15,000 Chinese 

coolies labourers for work in France, out of 

whom some 6,000 were required for 
work on the railways and 1,000 for inland water 
transport, the others being employed at various tasks 

* To illustrate the dimensions of motor transport used by the Army, I 
quote the following figures showing the total numbers of mechanical 
transport vehicles acquired by the War Office from the outbreak of War to 
1st September, 1916, and the numbers supplied by the Ministry of Munitions 
between the latter date and the end of December, 1918 : — 


(a) Lorries : heavy and light : 

Acquired by War Office from every 

source before 1 '9/16 21,705 

Supplied by M. of M. from 1 9 16 to 

Dec., 1918 37,785 

Total 59,490 

(b) Cars, vans and ambulances : 

Acquired by War Office, etc 9,630 

Supplied by M. of hi., etc 24,170 

Total 33,8oo 

(c) Steam wagons : 

Acquired by War Office, etc 440 

Supplied by M. of M., etc 714 

Total 1,154 

(d) Tractors : 

Acquired by War Office, etc 936 

Supplied by M. of M., etc 2,505 

Total 3 , 44 1 

(e) Motor cycles : 

Acquired by War Office, etc 18,750 

Supplied by M. of ML, etc 22,300 

Total 41,050 


These figures are, of course, exclusive of the motor vehicles supplied to 
our Allies. 



8oo 


WAR MEMOIRS 


on the road, I'ailheads, dumps, etc.* They were 
immensely powerful fellows, and it was no uncommon 
spectacle to see one of the Chinese pick up a balk 
of timber or a bundle of corrugated iron sheets 
weighing three or four hundredweight, and walk 
off with it as calmly as if it weighed only as many 
stone ! 

At times, of course, these Chinese coolies came 
under aerial bombing or long-distance shelling. 
That did not greatly perturb them ; they were 
far less nervous under fire than the British West 
Indian Auxiliaries, who were similarly engaged 
on Labour Corps duties. But it tended to dis- 
organise their work in another way, because if 
they suffered any fatal casualties, they would all 
break off work to attend the funeral, and neither 
threats nor cajolery had the least effect on them, 
nor would bombing or shelling by the enemy 
scatter their cortege, until the obsequies had , been 
duly completed. 

The whole story of British achievement in the 
sphere of transport during the War has never yet 
been told. It would be well worth telling in detail, 
and would reflect very high credit on those who 
were responsible for its development, most of all on 
Sir Eric Geddes. The following extracts from Sir 
Douglas Haig’s final dispatch, while they exhibit 
some remarkable reticences about certain points in 
the story, pay a merited tribute to the “ civilian 
experts ” whose advice I persuaded him to consider 
in 1916 : — 

# I am told that when I was asked to sanction the recruitment of “Chinese 
labour ” for the British Army in France, I replied, “ For Heaven’s sake 
don’t give it that name. What about Chinese Auxiliary Corps ? ** The 
former appellation would have recalled an unpleasant political controversy 
still fresh m party memory on both sides. 



TRANSPORT 


“ The successful co-ordination and economic use 
of all the various kinds of transportation requires 


most systematic management, based on 
Su Douglas deep thought and previous experience. 
tribute So great was the work entailed in the 
handling of the vast quantities, of which 
some few examples are given above, so complex 
did the machinery of transport become and so 
important was it that the highest state of efficiency 
should be maintained, that in the autumn of 1916 
I was forced to adopt an entirely new system for running 
our lines of communication * The appointment of 
Inspector-General of Communications was 
abolished, and the services previously directed by 
that officer were brought under the immediate 
control of the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster- 
General, and the Director-General of Transporta- 
tion. The last-mentioned was a new office created 
with a separate staff composed for the greater part 
of civilian experts to deal specifically with trans- 
portation questions. . . . 

The Director-General of Transportation’s branch 
was formed under the brilliant direction of Major- 
General Sir Eric Geddes during the autumn of 
1916, as above stated. To the large number of 
skilled and experienced civilians included by him 
on his staff, drawn from the railway companies of 
Great Britain and the Dominions, the Army is 
deeply indebted for the general excellence of our 
transportation services.” 


My italics. D.LLG. 



CHAPTER XXIX 


THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 

There are three reasons why I incorporate a chapter 
on the Mesopotamia scandal in my reminiscences of 
Reasons for ^ ar - One is that I opposed the 

describing initiation of the campaign. I quote the 
Mesopotamia following minute from the War Council 
campaign h e fo on February 24th, 1915 : — 

“ Mr. Lloyd George suggested that the Meso- 
potamia Expedition was merely a side issue. The 
Turks knew how far-reaching the effects of a 
disaster there would be and would spare no efforts 
to bring it about. The Mesopotamia force ought, 
in his opinion, to be withdrawn and concentrated 
on the Dardanelles.” 

The second is that when I became Secretary for 
War on 6th July, 1916, the first urgent task which I 
found awaiting my attention was the problem of 
dealing with the mess and muddle of the British 
Expedition to Mesopotamia. My last reason for 
telling it as part of my War story is that it is a perfect 
example of what military administration is capable 
of if entirely freed from civilian “interference.” It 
was an ideal professional soldiers’ campaign 
The paradise lacking even a minimum of supervision 

Biass Hat from the meddlesome politician. Tradition 
places the Garden of Eden in the land 
between the Euphrates and the Tigris. In this blissful 

802 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 803 

enclosure there reappeared in 1916 the Paradise of 
the Brass Hat. He reigned alone in unfettered and 
unrestricted sway over this garden for nearly two 
years. There was no serpent or consort to mislead 
or meddle with him. Where there were any 
politicians roaming about they were as meek as any 
beast in the ancient Garden. He ran his Eden alone. 
Let us see what kind of a Paradise he produced. 

It is a gruesome story of tragedy and suffering 
resulting from incompetence and slovenly carelessness 
on the part of the responsible military authorities. 
Attempts had been made to smother up the story 
through a campaign of secrecy and deliberate mis- 
representation, but despite these efforts enough had 
leaked out early in 1 9 1 6 to make it clear that strong ac- 
tion on thepart of theHome Government was demanded. 

The history of the expedition up to that date can 
be briefly outlined as follows. Towards the close 
of September, 1914* it became evident 
History of the that Turkey was likely to join the enemy 
expedition powers. This made it at once important 
to take steps for safeguarding the oil 
supplies in the Persian Gulf, which were owned by 
the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, a concern in which 
the Government had become large shareholders as a 
means of ensuring supplies of oil fuel for the Navy. 

Troops were at the time being dispatched from 
India to France, and the Imperial Government — 
through Lord Crewe, who was then Secretary of 
State for India — arranged with the Government of 
India for one brigade to be diverted to the Persian 
Gulf, to occupy the island of Abadan at the mouth 
of the Euphrates, and protect the oil tanks and pipe- 
lines. This force was duly sent, and landed on 
23rd October, 1914. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


804 

Within a fortnight after this, on 5th November, 
iq 14, war was declared on Turkey. Thereupon two 
fresh brigades were dispatched to Mesopo- 
Ccbt'.oe tamia, and on 22nd November the town 
of 'Bus. a of Basra was captured and occupied. 

Basra was the seaport of Mesopotamia, and 
was on the west bank of the Shatt-el-Arab (the wide 
joint stream of the Tigris and Euphrates) about 70 
miles up river from the open sea. 

This expedition, though sent by arrangement with 
the British Government at home, and subject to the 
general agreement -whereby all expenses of the Indian 
Expeditionary Forces beyond their ordinary cost of 
maintenance should be borne by Imperial Funds, 
was in respect of its administration under the sole con- 
trol and responsibility of the Indian Army authorities. 

Under threat of Turkish attacks, the Indian 
Government reluctantly sent another brigade in 
February, and when the danger to the 
Control by force grew more acute they were peremp- 
Indian Army torily ordered in March to send a fourth. 

Meantime the expedition had extended 
its area in December by capturing the town of Kurna, 
where the Tigris and Euphrates join, 50 miles above 
Basra. It had thus occupied the whole length of the 
Shatt-el-Arab. 

The Indian Government decided on 1st April, 
without obtaining the consent of the India Office at 
home, to organise the expedition as an 
Expedition army corps. They sent two more brigades 

reinforced to complete a second division, and 

appointed General Nixon to be Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the force. He was instructed to 
make plans for occupying the whole of the Basra 
Vilayet, and eventually advancing on Baghdad. 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 


8o= 


The oil-field lay to the east of the Shatt-el-Arab, 
up a tributary, the River Karan, and the pipeline 
ran down its left bank to the island of Abadan. On 
19th April the Home Government asked the force to 
move against the Turks in this region. General 
Xixon asked on the same day for more forces, which 
were refused by India. The Home Government 
Home concurred 

Gozei 'urent extensive 
rc am* against 


and added a warning against 


operations, saying, " Any 
extended proposal involving possible demands for 
opei at ions reinforcements of undue extension is to be 
deprecated. . . . Our present position is strategi- 
cally a sound one and we cannot at present afford to 
take risks by extending it unduly. In Mesopotamia 
a safe game must be played.” 

General Xixon then sent part of his force, under 
General Gorringe, up the Karun river, and the other 
part under General Townshend, to capture Amara, 
90 miles up the Tigris, getting a last-minute sanction 
from the British Government. Both operations were 
successful, and on 3rd June Amara was taken. Then, 
in boiling heat, an advance was made up the 
Euphrates to Nasariyeh, 68 miles beyond Kurna. The 
Indian Government now became eager for more 
progress, and got the consent of Sir Austen Chamber- 
lain, who was then Indian Secretary, for 
Townshend to advance on Kut, 150 miles 
up the Tigris beyond Amara. Kut-el- 
Amara was entered after severe fighting 
on 29th September, 1915. 

In November, 1914, the idea of an eventual advance 
on Baghdad had been turned down both by the India 
Office and by the Viceroy of India, who gave strong 
reasons against it. But subsequent successes had led 
the Indian Government to favour the project, and 


Kut captured 



8o6 


WAR MEMOIRS 


they sought permission from the Home Government 
for General Nixon to carry out his plan for this 
advance. On 6th October, 1915, it was definitely 
vetoed by Sir Austen Chamberlain, but later he 
relented to the point of saying that if the General 
Staff approved and thought the operation feasible, 
with the aid of two fresh divisions which might 
presently be placed at the disposal of the Mesopo- 
tamian force, the India Office would be prepared to 


Attack on 
Baghdad 
ant ho ? ised 


consider it. The Indian General Staff, 
also after some hesitation, agreed that 
with two fresh divisions Baghdad could be 
taken and held. In the end General Nixon 


told General Townshend to go ahead and capture 


Baghdad with the tired men he had at his disposal, on 
the strength of the hope that presently another two 
divisions w 7 ould arrive in Mesopotamia. 

Townshend advanced as far as Gtesiphon, a few 
miles from Baghdad, where he found the enemy 


strongly entrenched, and numerically 
Repuhe at equal or superior to his ora exhausted 
Cusiphon troops. After a fierce fight the British 
forces retired, and had to retreat down the 


river, compelled by lack of supplies and medical 
accommodation for casualties, and fighting a series of 
rearguard actions till they reached Kut, which they 
prepared to hold until relieved and reinforced by the 
further troops which were expected. More than 
30 per cent, of the force had been killed or wounded. 

General Towmshend reached Kut on 3rd December, 
where he was told by the military authorities to defend 
himself till relieved. By 7th December the town was 
fully invested by the Turks. After suffering severely 
in attempts to take it by storm they settled down to 
beleaguer it. 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MEDDLE 807 

The remainderof the British forces hastily improvised 
efforts to relieve the town. They were reinforced by 
the two promised divisions from France. 
S-V-* ct'I These -were Indian divisions, already 
Jill of Kut severely punished in the French fighting, 
and they arrived piecemeal during 
December at Basra, where 12,000 troops were im- 
mobilised through lack of transport to take them to 
the front. The attempts of the Tigris force to relieve 
General Townshend were heavily defeated. They 
made some progress in their attacks on the beleaguer- 
ing lines, but owing to lack of reinforcements they 
abandoned the attempt to break through. Ultimately, 
on 29th April, 1916, after having gallantly defended 
the town for 147 days, Townshend’s brave men were 
starved into surrender. 

Long before this tragic climax, it had become clear 
that the expedition was being hopelessly mismanaged 
in some way or other, and early in February, 1916, 
the War Office took charge of the expedition. The 
forces there were, however, parts of the Indian Army, 
and immediately under the Indian General Staff in 
Simla. It was not until July, 1916, when I went to 
the War Office, that the administration of matters 
connected with the expedition was transferred to the 
control of the Home Government. 

This transfer was my first step towards clearing up 
the muddle. My second was to promote the appoint- 
ment of a Commission to make an 
lontrolto Home investigation into the. muddle and its 
Government causes. This Commission was set up in 
and order an August, 1916, and issued its report on 
investigation j 7th May, 1917. The report was signed 

by seven of the eight Commissioners, while Com- 
mander J. Wedgwood put in a separate report. 



8o8 


WAR MEMOIRS 


substantially agreeing with the other, but emphasising 
more forcibly certain aspects of the blunders and 
errors which had been committed, particularly bv 
the Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief in India. 

The facts revealed by this Commission’s report cast 
a baleful light upon the mismanagement, stupidity, 
criminal neglect and amazing incom- 
A story of petence of the military authorities who 
incompetence were responsible for the organisation of 
the expedition, and on the horrible and un- 
necessary suffering of the gallant men who were sent to 
failure and defeat through the blundersofthoseincharge. 

The General Staff in India knew perfectly well the 
nature of the country to which the force was being 
sent, and the kind of equipment which would obviously 
need to be supplied to it. Mesopotamia is a flat, 
alluvial tract, largely covered by floods in the wet 
season, while in the summer the rivers dwindled to 
very shallow streams. There are no 
Conditions in proper roads, and water transport was 
Mesopotamia the principal means of moving either men 
or supplies. It is a country of torrid heat 
in summer, though the nights throughout a consider- 
able part of the year are cold, and during the winter 
and spring the country is subject to cold winds and 
icy storms. It was a primitive and backward country, 
some distance by sea from the nearest civilised base. 

Obviously, therefore, the first essential for sending 
any expedition to Mesopotamia was to ensure that it 
was very well found ; that it had an ample supply of 
suitable river boats for its transports ; that 
Requirements clothing and food should be suited to the 
for a campaign conditions of the country ; that medical 
equipment, especially for the wounded and 
the sick, should be above the average, to meet the 



THE MESOPOTAMIA Ml’DDLE 8no 

dangers of a sterile and disease-ridden land ; that 
provision was made for establishing a well-equipped 
base at the port of Basra ; and that arrangements 
for reinforcements should be carefully planned and 
promptly executed. 

Every single one of these obvious duties was not 
merely done badly, but left undone to the point of 
incredibility. In the opening months of the War the 
Indian Government showed an extraordinary tardi- 
ness in rendering any help at all to the Empire in its 
struggle. Only under strong pressure would it send a 
single soldier to the front, and despite its enormous 
population it declared itself incapable of recruiting 
substantial additional forces. It would not spend an 
extra pice on the War ; indeed, in the Budget debate 
of March, 1915, at Simla, a member boasted that 
Indian military although it was a War Budget, military 
authorities expenditure had not been increased, and 
starve the was, in fact, below the original estimate. 
expedition The Indian troops which came to France 
came under the control of the British authorities ; 
but those which were sent to Mesopotamia were 
entirely in the hands of the reluctant and parsimonious 
authorities at Simla, and were stinted and starved of 
every kind of equipment and support. “ Every 
general who appeared before us agreed,” said the 
Commissioners, “ that the Mesopotamian Expedition 
was badly equipped.” 

It was short of artillery, particularly of heavy guns. 
The Indian Military Authorities do not appear to 
have thought of asking for any. It was 
Inadequate no t till December, 1915, when the ill- 
a munMom nd starred attack on Baghdad had been 
already attempted and failed, and General 
Townshend was beleaguered in Kut, that the first 



WAR MEMOIRS 


8lO 

request was received for heavy guns for Mesopotamia, 
and not till 26th May, 1916, that India sent a definite 
statement of its requirements for these weapons. 

Even as late as the spring of 1916 the expedition 
was deficient in many things which India could have 
supplied, such as w T ire-cutters, rockets, Very lights, 
water-carts, tents, mosquito nets, sun-helmets, bombs, 
medical supplies, and even blankets and clothing. 
The Commander-in-Chief in India excused himself 
before the Commission by saying that some of these 
articles had not been heard of before the War, at 
least in India. But they had not been supplied to this 
expedition when the War had been in progress 18 
months. Even the Turks were using Very lights in 
Mesopotamia before our troops had any. 

Despite the severities of the weather at certain 
seasons, the military authorities proposed at first to 
leave the provision of warm clothing for the troops 
entirely to private benevolence, sending them out 
with nothing but “ shorts ” and tropical clothing. 
The Viceroy himself protested against this. 

There were no aeroplanes at all for the first six 
months, though the need for them in that wide, 
roadless land was obvious. For this failure the 
authorities at home must share the blame. 

But it is when we come to the question of river 
transport that the blundering and incompetence of 
the military authorities is seen in its full 
Shortage of functioning. So long as the expedition was 
riser transpot t confined in its objectives to the original 
landing on the island of Abadan, or the 
port of Basra, it was mainly dependent on ocean-going 
transport. But from the moment when, in December, 
> I 9 I 4> ^ advanced, with the approval of the author- 
ities at Simla, up river to Kurna, special river transport 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MEDDLE Oil 

became a vital necessity, and with each farther 
advance, which lengthened the line up the river, the 
need for transport vessels increased. 

As early as 23rd November, 1914, after the capture 
of Basra, General Barrett was advised by Commander 
Hamilton, R.I.M., who knew the Tigris intimately, 
to apply at once for 12 special steamers, as they would 
have to be built to an unusual pattern, and would take 
12 months to construct. But the General and his 
staff did not think the matter urgent, and did nothing 
about it till in January they were asked by India what 
further transport they needed. He then asked for seven 
steamers and two lighters. In February he asked for 
four tugs. These were obtained in India in March, 
and sent out ; but when in May General Nixon took 
over, he found that they were useless for the hot 
weather, when the river ran low. He asked for vessels 
drawing not more chan 3 feet or 3 feet 6 inches. 

After delays in India, this request was ultimately 
incorporated in a requisition telegraphed to the India 
Office on 4th August, 1915. Nothing was 
Orders for done till confirmation in writing turned up 

boats muddled i n September. Then the officials at the 
India Office made inquiry of the firm 
recommended to them for this work, but rather than 
pay them a commission amounting to one-third of 
one per cent, for supervising the execution of the 
order they turned to their expert naval architect, who 
without special knowledge of the conditions of the 
Tigris, proceeded to secure them the building of vessels 
differing in a number of respects from the type ordered 
— vessels which were sent out in sections between 
April and December, 1916. It may be briefly stated 
that on account of the alterations of the pattern these 
boats were useless for the purpose of up-river transport; 



WAR MEMOIRS 


8l2 

that the fact that they had to be assembled at Basra 
meant considerable further delay after they reached 
Mesopotamia ; and that owing to lack of facilities 
for shipbuilding at Basra, and the large size of some of 
the sections, they were very difficult to handle — par- 
ticularly as no drawings, descriptions or instructions 
came with them. Some sections sank in 30 feet of 
water, and the rest had to be towed to Bombay to be 
erected there. The Commission remarks : — 

e< More inept proceedings than those connected 
with the purchase and shipment of river craft in 
England in 1915 and early in 1916 would be hard 
to find.” 

When in October, 1915, General Nixon learnt that 
the paddle-steamers wanted would take a year to 
build he asked for stop-gap boats from 
Fiesh boats India. The Indian authorities replied 
tefused as they had done previously in June, that 

no suitable tugs were available. A 
month later they admitted that there were 1 3 available. 
The Commission gives a picture of the circumlocution 
and red tape which created the long delays before 
any request from Mesopotamia got even a negative 
reply. “ Correspondence was usually conducted 
between the G.O.C. in Mesopotamia and the Chief 
of the Staff in Simla or Delhi. From the latter officer, 
anything about river craft would be transmitted to the 
Quartermaster-General, who would thereafter com- 
municate what he thought necessary to Captain 
Lumsden, R.N., the Director of the Royal Indian 
Marine at Bombay.” How that officer spent his 
time is thus described by the Commission : — 

“ The Director of the Royal Indian Marine was 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 


not granted — at any rate did not exercise — any 
Incoin- initiative in maritime or nautical matters. 
petence ■ ■ . The time of the Director and Senior 
of Indian Officers of the Indian Marine is much 
Marine taken up with mere office or desk work. 
The amount of writing which they have to get 
through — or at all events do get through — can only 
be described as enormous. . . . The Director of 
the Royal Indian Marine gave to the Commission 
a list of the duties, the discharge of which he con- 
sidered rendered it impossible for him to visit 
Mesopotamia and see for himself the actual state 
of things there. Most of the duties specified 
required neither maritime experience nor nautical 
knowledge, and could have been performed by any 
alert business man, even though he may never have 
been on blue water in his life.” 


The report, in fact, makes several references to the 
fact that the Indian officials never went to look at 
things for themselves, and when they were 
Simla out of told of conditions, refused to pay 
situation attention to the reports. Worse, they 

blankly misreported the facts. “ So much 
out of touch was Simla with the actual situation in 
Mesopotamia that we find the Indian General Staff, 
in ‘appreciations’ in June and September, 1915, 
definitely stating that the expedition was well 
supplied with river craft, and using this among their 
arguments for the advance to Baghdad.” 

The lack of river transport up to the spring of 1916 
was a direct cause of the failure of military operations 
carried out by the troops with the utmost bravery. 
On account of the shortage it took nearly two months 
to concentrate troops and supplies for the advance 



WAR MEMOIRS 


814 

from Amara to Kut, and the advance to Baghdad was 
fatally delayed through the same cause. It seems 
almost certain that, but for the shortage of river 
transport, the Turkish Army would have been 
destroyed between Amara and Ctesiphon ; and the 
evidence shows conclusively, according to the Com- 
mission, that shortage of river transport was the chief 
cause of the failure to relieve Kut. 

Since the vital importance of such transport was 
clearly understood both in India and at home, it is 
natural to ask what on earth possessed the military 
authorities to allow the advance up the Tigris in face 
of the shortage. The report of the Commission 
brings out that General Nixon, the commander on the 
spot, when he found the Indian authorities unable or 
unwilling to provide the needed transport, was 
optimistically ready to try his luck with what he had ; 
and the Indian authorities themselves, having failed 
to provide what they must have known was necessary, 
made no effort to impress the gravity of the shortage 
on the India Office at home. This Office was allowed 
to get the impression that all was well, 
A ted tape an impression perpetuated by a typically 
blunder official incident. General Nixon’s appeal 
for more vessels, sent to the India Office 
by the Indian Government, was not laid before the 
Secretary of State. The Military Branch of the India 
Office sent it on to the Stores Branch as an indent ; 
and though it was forwarded to the War Office, no 
letter was sent drawing attention to the shortage of 
transport it revealed. Thus military officials both in 
India and in London suppressed or ignored facts 
which, had they been known by either the War Council 
or the Cabinet, would have prevented the granting 
of consent to the ill-fated advance on Baghdad. 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 815 

Allied to the failure to furnish river transport was 
the neglect to develop wharfage and storage facilities 
at Basra. 

The boats available had their usefulness heavily 
reduced through this failure. General Gorringe 
stated that “ no improvement in the 
Mismanage- unloading wharves for ships was made 
mental Bast a until December, 1915 . . . although the 
accommodation was bad and congested 
for stores of every kind being unloaded.” To the 
physical drawbacks was added the incompetence of 
the military officials. The Commission reports that 
delays to steamers w r ere at first occasioned, not so 
much by inability to get cargoes out into lighters, 
as by inability or unwillingness of the military depart- 
ments ashore to receive it rapidly. 

“ It is clear that management of the traffic of a 
port and discharge of cargo was not work to w r hich 
officers of the Royal Indian Marine had previously 
been accustomed. . . . Men with these qualifica- 
tions were known to be employed in one or other of 
the great Indian and Burmese river ports. Their 
advice was not asked for ; and their assistance was 
not utilised until more than a year after the landing 
of the expedition in Mesopotamia wffien conditions 
in Basra had become serious.” 


In January, 1916, the Indian Government at last 
sent an expert civilian, Sir George Buchanan, formerly 
in charge of the Port of Rangoon, to become 
Director-General of Basra and reorganise 
its traffic and facilities. Characteristically, 
they omitted to define his status and duties ; 
and General Nixon proceeded to limit and circumscribe 
these in such a way that Sir George Buchanan 


Sir Geo . 
Buchanan 
fiozen out 



WAR MEMOIRS 


816 

found it impossible to carry on, and soon returned to 
India. In his report to Simla he said : — 

“ I found it difficult to realise that we had been 
in occupation of Basra for a year, as the arrange- 
ments for the landing and storing of goods of every 
description were of the most primitive order, and 
in the absence of roads, the whole area was a huge 
quagmire. To a newcomer appearances were such 
that troops and stores might have been landed, for 
the first time, the previous week. . . . The military 
expedition to Basra is, I believe, unique, inasmuch 
as in no previous case has such an enormous force 
been landed and maintained without an adequately 
prepared base.” 


But if the neglect of transport by the military 
authorities was directly responsible for the failure and 


Appalling 
fail'd) e of 
medical services 


defeat of the expedition, their neglect 
of medical equipment turned disaster 
into horror. 


Tales of the atrocities resulting from 


inadequate provision for the wounded and sick were so 


widespread that even Sir Beauchamp Duff, the 
Commander-in-Chief of the Army in India, felt himself 
compelled in March, 1916, to set up a Commission to 
inquire into the matter. Their report was, however, 
such a sickening exposure of official negligence and 
incompetence that the Indian Government would not 


publish it. The Mesopotamia Commission appointed 
by the Home Government had this report before 
them, and published it as an appendix to their own 
report. It was known as the “ Vincent-Bingley ” 
Report, as Sir William Vincent and General Bingley 
w r ere the chief members responsible for it. 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 8vj 

The evidence of both reports is that the expedition 
was systematically starved by the Indian military 
authorities in regard to every vital medical provision, 
and that protests were stifled and outside offers of 
help refused. 

The standard of the Indian Army in this respect 
was low to begin with. A witness from the Indian 
Peace-time Medical Service told the Commission : 
incompetence of“ I doubt whether you gentlemen would 
Indian military consider that the Sepoys’ Hospitals in 
hospitals peace-time India are hospitals at all.” 
Sir Alfred Keogh, Director-General of Army Medical 
Services at the War Office, said : — 

“ I have no hesitation whatever in saying that 
the medical arrangements connected with the Army 
in India have been for years and years most dis- 
graceful. . . . Anything more disgraceful than the 
carelessness and want of attention with regard to 
the sick soldier in India it is impossible to imagine.” 

But if things in India were bad, they were far worse 
in Mesopotamia. The expedition was sent out with 
a medical establishment, even according 
Conditions to its organisation orders, lower than that 
worse in war laid down for a frontier campaign ; and 
“ the actual amount of medical personnel 
in Mesopotamia was during long periods far below 
even this meagre scale. 5 ” 

There was at times a serious shortage of essential 
drugs. Necessary appliances for the hospitals were 
scanty or altogether lacking. Often there was no ice. 
For months there were no electric fans. There were 
not enough bandages, blankets, bed-pans, and splints. 
Even when the wounded got to the military hospital 



8l8 WAR MEMOIRS 

at Bombay it was to find there an appalling state of 
neglect — no X-ray apparatus, a lack of splints and 
surgical appliances, a shortage of doctors, surgeons, 
nurses, and attendants. 

The doctors and ambulance staffs with the expedi- 
tion performed miracles of heroic work, but there 
were very few of them. At the first battle 
Wounded left of Kut some of the fighting units w r ere 
on battlefield without stretcher bearers, and wounded 
men -were left on the field of battle all 
night, some of them being stripped, mutilated, and 
killed by the Arabs. 

No wheeled transport for seriously wounded cases 
was sent out. Instead, a number of riding mules 
were supplied ! The Commissioners say : 
No “We have no evidence that these riding 

ambulances mules were ever used by the wounded, 
though their presence on one occasion 
in a very restive state is recorded by a witness. They 
are obviously useless for serious cases.” 

In default of wheeled ambulances, the medical 
officers were forced to move the more seriously 
wounded in springless army transport carts, drawn by 
mules, ponies, or bullocks. The A.D.M.S., 3rd 
Division, said that this cart, “ which is without springs, 
has no cover to give protection against rain or the 
direct rays of the sun ; and the bottom of which com- 
sists of bars of iron which, even when liberally covered 
with mattresses or other padding, renders the placing 
of a wounded man, especially cases of fracture, in 
such a conveyance, a practice which can only be 
designated as barbarous and cruel.” 

In some cases, we learn, dead bodies were used as 
cushions on these carts, in default of any other means 
of padding them. 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 819 

But It is when we come to the transport of wounded 
and sick men down the river to Basra that the story 
\o transports reac kes Its culminating horror. There 
for sick and were no river steamers at all fitted as 
wounded down medical transports, nor any personnel to 
nver attend to casualties on the journey. Use 

had to be made of the scanty river transport employed 
in bringing men, stores and animals up stream, and 
as congestion grew it became impossible to clean 
or disinfect these boats in any way before sending 
the wounded, thickly packed, in them, down to 
Basra, and detailing from the scanty and over- 
worked field ambulance staffs a few men to 
accompany them — too few to give proper attention 
or even to feed them. 

£C Wounds which required dressing and re- 
dressing were not attended to, and the condition of 
many of the patients who travelled by these 
steamers was, when they reached Basra, deplorable. 
There the wounds of many were found to be in a 
septic condition, and in urgent need of re-dressing. 
In some cases bed sores had developed, more than 
one patient arrived soaked in faeces and urine, and 
in a few cases wounds were found to contain 
maggots . 55 

The Commission quote a description, by Major 
Carter, I.M.S., which I cannot repeat without apolo- 
Arrival of gising for its repulsive horror, of how the 
wounded at wounded, after Ctesiphon, arrived in Basra. 
Carter's ^ Yet it is necessary for us to face frankly 
description the record of what actually happened to a 
number of valiant men who fought for Britain and 
her Empire in the Great War. Our soldiers had not 


VOL. II 


s 



WAR MEMOIRS 


8’0 

merely to read of, but to suffer this. Here is the 

account : — 

“ I was standing on the bridge [of the hospital 
ship Varela from Bombay] in the evening 
when the Medjidieh arrived. She had two steel 
barges without any protection against the rain, as 
far as I can remember. As this ship with two 
barges came up to us I saw that she was absolutely 
packed, and the barges too, with men. The barges 
were slipped, and the Medjidieh was brought 
alongside the Varela. When she was about 300 
or 400 yards off it looked as if she was festooned 
with ropes. The stench when she was close was 
quite definite, and I found that what I mistook for 
ropes were dried stalactites of human faeces. The 
patients were so huddled and crowded together in 
the ship that they could not perform the offices of 
nature clear of the edge of the ship, and the whole 
of the ship’s side was covered with stalactites of 
human faeces. This is what I then saw. A certain 
number of men were standing and kneeling on the 
immediate perimeter of the ship. Then we found a 
mass of men huddled up anyhow — some with 
blankets and some without. They were lying in a 
pool of dysentery about 30 feet square. They were 
covered with dysentery and dejecta generally from 
head to foot. With regard to the first man I exam- 
ined .... [I omit a still more terrible passage of 

the description] The man had a fractured 

thigh, and his thigh was perforated in five or six 
places. He had apparently been writhing about 
the deck of the ship. Many cases were almost as 
bad. There were a certain number of cases of 
terribly bad bed sores. In my report I describe 
mercilessly to the Government of India how I 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 


ft 121 

found men with their limbs splinted with wood 
strips from ‘ Johnny Walker 5 whisky boxes, 
* Bhoosa 5 wire, and that sort of thing . 55 

“ Were they British or Indian ? 55 

“ British and Indian mixed . 55 

This state of affairs was thus described by the 
G.O.C. of the expedition : — 

“ Wounded satisfactorily disposed of. Many 
likely to recover in country comfortably placed in 
hospitals at Amara and Basra. Those for invaliding 
are being placed direct on two hospital ships that 
w r ere ready at Basra on arrival of river boats. 
General condition of wounded very satisfactory. 
Medical arrangements under circumstances of 
considerable difficulty worked splendidly . 55 

What about Major Carter’s report to the Indian 
military authorities ? The Commission gives the 
Major Carter following account of its reception : — 
threatened fur “ He [Major Carter] was treated with 
reporting great rudeness. Surgeon-General Hatha- 

conditions way> in wr i t i ng to the D.M.S. in India 

on this subject, says : 4 The Army Commander, 

realising the injustice, ordered the D.A. and Q,.M.G. 
and myself to deal -with him [Major Carter] with 
reference to his objectionable remarks . 5 And General 
Cowper, then D.A. and Q^.M.G., told us : c I threat- 
ened to put him under arrest, and I said that I would 
get his hospital ship taken away from him for a 
meddlesome, interfering faddist . 5 55 General Cowper 
was passing on treatment he had himself received, for 
the Commander-in-Chief in India, Sir Beauchamp 
Duff, had threatened to dismiss him for sending to 
India too insistent demands as to the need for River 
Transport. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


Not only would the authorities do nothing them- 
selves ; they would let no one do anything to help 
them. On i ith August, 1915, the Secretary 
Outside help for India wired the Viceroy with an offer 
1 t/used from the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire 
to raise funds for the sick and wounded 
soldiers in Mesopotamia, and send out doctors, nurses, 
medicines, and hospital comforts. After consulting 
the Commander-in-Chief, the Viceroy answered that 
money was ample and sufficient for supplying comforts 
for sick and wounded in Mesopotamia and in India ; 
that everything necessary was being done, and that 
his Government had arranged for doctors and nurses. 
Electric fans were offered by the Madras Fund in 
December, 1914, for installation in the hospitals at 
Basra, but by the middle of 1915 none had been 
actually installed. The British Red Cross Society 
cabled General Nixon to accept two petrol-driven 
motor-launches. The offer was repeated on 28th 
December, and the reply was : — 

“ Nothing required at present. If anything 
needed in future will not hesitate to ask you.” 

This was just after the total breakdown of medical 
services following the battle of Ctesiphon. 

I need not particularise further the failures of the 
military authorities to deal with other medical and 
sanitary issues ; the insufficient and inappropriate 
food they supplied, which led by 1915 to an outbreak 
of scurvy among the troops, and a much more serious 
outbreak the following spring ; the neglect of water 
supply, so that the troops were reduced to drinking 
from the nearest river, and an outbreak of cholera 
resulted. The report of the Commission makes it 
clear that on every hand there was utter failure to 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MEDDLE 


823 

make the most elementary provision for the obvious 
needs of the expedition. In their “ Findings,” they 
remark : — 


“ Looking at the facts, which from the first must 
have been apparent to any administrator, military 
or civilian, who gave a few minutes’ 
Finding; consideration to the map and to the con- 
% ihe • ditions in Mesopotamia, the want of 
foresight and provision for the most 
fundamental needs of the expedition reflects dis- 
credit upon the organising aptitude of all the 
authorities concerned.” 


I need not refer to the way in which the military 
authorities in India starved the expedition of drafts 
and reinforcements — although they ivere in charge of 
a country’ of 315,000,000 people, of whom 50,000,000 
belonged to fighting races. But one amazing incident 
deserves mention. When in October, 1915, the 
advance on Baghdad ivas in prospect, and the need 
for reinforcements to support the force there w r as 
urgent, the Imperial Authorities asked the Indian 
Government to provide a division temporarily, as the 
tw r o divisions from France might not get there in 
time. “ With the intention of evading this 
Deception liabilitv,” says the Report, “the Indian 
reserves Government resorted to procedure which, 

to say the least of it, was disingenuous.” 
There were, in fact, certain artillery’ batteries, 
cavalry regiments, and infantry brigades which could 
be spared in India, but the Home Government w r as 
not informed of this, and the reason given in a minute 
from the Military Secretary of Sir Beauchamp Duff 
to the Viceroy’s Military Secretary ran as follows : — 

”... It is proposed by the Chief that the force 



WAR MEMOIRS 


824 

he has named should be assembled .... for 
eventualities, but that the Home Government 
should not be informed of this. . . . The Home 
Government are very anxious that Baghdad should 
be taken, and they will send us the required force 
if we hold out, but they will give us nothing if the 
least sign of willingness to find reinforcements is 
shown by us.” 

So the Viceroy cabled on 17th October : — 

“ ... In no case could I undertake to supply 
from India, even temporarily, a further force of the 
strength of a division.” 

The Indian Government, as Commander Wedg- 
wood remarks, “ held out ” while Serbia was being 
overrun, and while our last man was being put 
in at Loos. 

It is hardly necessary to add that the Commission 

passed severe censures upon the Commander-in- 

Chief in India, Sir Beauchamp Duff, and the Viceroy, 

Lord Hardinge ; on the Surgeon-General, the 

Director of Medical Services, the Indian Marine, 

and the Commanding Officer in Mesopotamia, 

General Nixon. It further condemned the whole 

military" system of administration as “ cumbrous and 

inept ” and recommended its drastic reform. 

When I was appointed Secretary of State for War 

in July, 1916, my first task was to take in hand the 

Mesopotamian situation. The most 

Sit John urgent call was for improved transport 

Cowans takes j j- i , 

charge and medical arrangements. It was my 

good fortune to secure the assistance of the 

Q^.M.G., Sir John Cowans, a man whom I have always 

considered to be the most capable soldier thrown up 

by the War in our Army. I shall never forget the 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 0-2^ 

quiet efficiency with which he detailed the steps 
that he thought should be taken. He had no hesita- 
tion in utilising experienced civilian assistance and 
some of the ablest of his transport officers in the 
Barge department were promoted civilians. All that 
could be done from this end was put in hand and 
pressed through without delay and there were no 
further scandals in the administration of the Meso- 
potamian Army. 

The Commission also stated that “ it was not until 
London took over the sole charge that there was any 
marked improvement in the management of the 
campaign. The improvement and success since 
effected are a striking illustration of the all-importance 
of unity of control in time of war.” A number of 
references are made through the report to the better 
state of things which had supervened since July, igi6. 

I feel that I cannot conclude this rather gruesome 
chapter without quoting a first-rate example of official 
circumlocution. It might serve a useful purpose to 
insert it here as a warning. 

The Report of the Mesopotamian Commission 
gives a graphic description of the cumbrous procedure 
A classic and circumlocution which at that time 

account of hedged round any proposal to make 
official provision for the needs of the Army. It 

circumlocution was SU ppli e d by Mr. Brunyate, Financial 

Secretary to the Indian Government, and for some 
years Financial Adviser to the Commander-in-Chief 
and Military Member of Council. When asked to 
give a concrete case of how r a paper relating to a 
proposal for army equipment would pass through 
the two departments, he replied : — 


“ The Quartermaster-General, it may be 



WAR MEMOIRS 


826 

supposed, wishes to have more mules. Probably 
before putting forward the proposal at all he sees 
the Commander-in-Chief personally as Commander- 
in- Chief and ascertains from him that he is willing 
to have that proposal ventilated. He then writes 
a note stating his facts, probably supported by a 
note from the Director of the Army Remount 
Department, makes a definite recommendation, 
estimates the cost, and marks his note to the Army 
Department of the Government of India. The 
office clerks of the Army Department note on the 
case, the Assistant Secretary notes, the Deputy 
Secretary may note, and it reaches the Army 
Secretary — we will call him General Holloway, 
though he is not actually Army Secretary now. 
He criticises the proposal if he thinks fit . . . the 
office of the Financial Adviser then note upon it 
. . . the clerks in the Finance Adviser’s office note, 
the Assistant or Deputy Financial Adviser notes, 
now Mr. Fell. Mr. Fell may be prepared at once 
to accept the proposal on behalf of the Finance 
Department, and may intimate that he does not 
intend to refer it to the Finance Member. The file 
then goes back to the Army Secretary, and in that 
case he at once arranges for the necessary orders to 
be issued to give effect to the Quartermaster- 
General’s proposal, unless he thinks the case of 
sufficient importance to refer it to the Army Member. 

Such reference will, of course, practically always 
be required if the proposal is one requiring the 
sanction of the Secretary of State. In that case 
the Army Secretary would take the Army Member’s 
orders at this stage, and a dispatch to the Secretary 
of State would then be drafted in the Army Depart- 
ment. . . . Or again, Mr. Fell, when the case 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 827 

first reached him, might have criticised the proposal, 
and indicated a desire to see it modified or rejected. 
In that case the file would still go back to the Army 
Secretary, and he would doubtless at that stage 
take the orders of the Army Member unless before 
doing so he wished to have the opinion of the 
Quartermaster-General on the criticisms and 
suggestions which had been made in the military 
finance branch. Mr. Fell, when criticising the 
proposal, would probably have indicated whether 
he intended to refer the case eventually to the 
Finance Member. Thus when the Army Secretary 
brought these criticisms before the Army Member, 
the latter would know that if he decided to override 
the Financial Adviser’s criticisms, he might have 
to face opposition from the Finance Member. The 
Army Member would then pass his orders. If he 
adhered to the scheme as put forward by the 
Quartermaster-General and the Army Department 
he would record a note to that effect. The file 
would then go back to the Financial Adviser, and 
the latter would not note again, but would submit 
the case to the Finance Member. If the Finance 
Member decided not to press the objections raised 
by Mr. Fell, the proposal would become a fully 
accepted proposal, and orders would be issued for 
putting it into effect. If, however, the Finance 
Member definitely objected to the scheme, the 
case would then go back to Mr. Fell for return to 
the Army Secretary for re-submission to the Army 
Member. The Army Member might then defer to 
the Finance Member’s objection, in which case the 
whole proposal would be dropped with the Army 
Member’s concurrence, though a reluctant con- 
currence. If, however, the Army Member, in 



spite of the Finance Member’s objections, considered 
that the proposal was a necessary one, he would 
intimate to the Army Secretary that the case should 
be referred to His Excellency the Viceroy, under 
our Rules of Business, which prescribe that when 
two Members of Council differ the case must be 
referred for the orders of the Viceroy. The Army 
Secretary would then lay the case before the 
Viceroy. The latter might very possibly indicate 
a personal opinion that, in the circumstances, as 
a particular case, he thought it perhaps desirable 
that the views of the Army Member should be 
deferred to, and any expression of the Viceroy’s 
wish in an ordinary case is very frequently — I might 
almost say generally — deferred to. Or the Viceroy 
might, pursuing the ordinary procedure under our 
Statutory Rules of Business, simply instruct the 
Army Secretary that the case was to be brought up 
in Council the following week. It would then be 
discussed in Council, the Army Secretary being 
present, but not taking any part in the discussion, and 
would be settled by the views of the majority of 
the Council.” 

Asked how long a disputed case might take, he 
replied : — 

“ At the best a disputed proposal would, I think, 
ordinarily take a good many weeks. I cannot put 
it more exactly than that, but a great deal depends 
on whether the responsible secretary takes a grip 
of the case and prevents it being constantly remitted 
backwards and forwards between the Financial 
Adviser on the one side and the Administrative 
Authority, the Quartermaster-General, or whoever 
he may be, on the other, inviting each in turn to 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 8 2 () 

reply to the other’s rejoinders and criticisms. 
Where a case was not taken hold of and put to an 
end, I have known it very lamentably protracted 
from this cause. . . .” 

This fantastic picture is not a page from some 
Dickensian work of fiction. It is a sober account 
by a highly responsible official of the actual procedure 
adopted up to 1916 by the military authorities at 
Simla — procedure to which any request for vitally 
necessary supplies for the Mesopotamian Ex- 
peditionary Force would be subjected. It helps to 
explain the tragedy which befell that gallant company. 

As Sir John Cowans was the General Officer who 
undertook the reorganisation of the transport system 
in Mesopotamia, and as his work was a 
M_v fist triumphant success, it would not be out 

impressions c f place here to give my impressions of 

" " this genial and competent soldier. The 

first time that I recollect seeing Sir John Cowans — 
“ Jack ” Cowans as he was known to all his numerous 
friends — was at the first meeting of the Munitions 
Committee which was set up at the end of 1914. 
We met at the War Office, in the Secretary of 
State’s room, and when the discussion on the supply 
of munitions had come to an end, and our interviews 
with General von Donop and others were over, Lord 
Kitchener suggested that we might like to see the 
man who was responsible for the other war supplies — 
the Quartermaster-General. General Cowans was 
sent for, and my first impression was that of a large, 
rather ungainly, awkward and weather-beaten man 
with a stolid face and shrewd eyes. He did not in 
the least resemble ray idea of a Staff General. He had 
rather the visage and demeanour of a successful corn 



WAR MEMOIRS 


83O 

merchant in an agricultural town. He sat down 
without a glimmer of expression on his face, and when 
asked for particulars as to food supplies for the Army, 
he slowly and clumsily pulled out a shabby spectacle 
case and extracted a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. 

When these were adjusted he pulled out 
The laundry of his pocket a worn note-book that bore 
books a distinct resemblance to a laundry book, 

and casually gave us extracts from the 
notes therein for the answers. Then the clothing — 
another book. We listened and gradually realised 
that we were being given a lucid summary of the 
organisation of supplies which was so completely 
satisfactory that when Lord Kitchener inquired of 
us whether we wanted to put any questions, we all 
felt there was nothing left to ask. This perfunctory 
soldier surprised me with his quiet, 
A bom unostentatious efficiency. It was borne 

organiser in upon the Committee that here was a 
man who understood organisation — that 
he was an organiser to his finger tips. When I came 
to know him better I realised that under his rough 
exterior and stolid look there was a simple and kindly 
nature and inexhaustible fund of good humour and 
joviality. Once you knew him it took little to awaken 
the twinkle in his eye and to provoke his hearty, 
noisy, infectious laugh. 

With an appearance of being extraordinarily casual, 
Cowans was an excellent business man. His own 
department was perfectly ordered, and 
Complete he himself was thoroughly acquainted 

^department w . ith a11 the workings of it. He discharged 
his duties throughout the four and a half 
years of the War in such a way as to give complete 
satisfaction to everybody concerned, soldiers and 



THE MESOPOTAMIA MUDDLE 83 1 

civilians. Whatever doubts and grumbles there 
were about the deficiencies and shortcomings of other 
war leaders, there never was a murmur from any 
quarter as to the efficiency with which Sir John 
Cowans did his work. That is more than can be 
said about any other prominent figure in the War, 
military or civil. 

I have already described the appalling state of 
affairs in Mesopotamia when Cowans took the job in 
hand. Quickly, with almost incredible speed, the 
state of affairs changed completely. Without fuss and 
apparently without effort he straightened things out 
and no more was heard of scandals in Mesopotamia. 

When as Secretary for War I came to grips with 
the Army Council because I insisted upon putting 
civilians into jobs which soldiers had 
Spokesman fit hitherto been responsible for, it was 
the generals Cowans who was sent as representative 
of the irate generals to put their protests 
before me. He was certainly the best person for the 
job as far as I was concerned, for his efficiency and 
good humour made him an acceptable mediator. 
You could not quarrel or get angry with Jack Cowans. 
He smiled wrath away. 



CHAPTER XXX 


THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 

The latter half of 1916 saw a succession of sporadic 
and untraceable attempts in certain quarters to bring 
about an inconclusive peace. Kites were 
Peace kites flown and hints broadcast in Holland, in 
in 1916 Spain, at the Vatican, in Sweden, and the 
U.S.A. There was good reason to think 
that some at least of these movements were being 
stimulated by German agents, as this was a propitious 
moment for securing favourable terms for the Central 
Powers. In the early months of the War, Germany 
with her elaborately prepared and highly efficient 
military equipment and organisation had pressed her 
attack upon the Allied Powers, who were far less 
skilfully directed, less adequately equipped, and, in 
the case of the British forces, only just beginning to 
improvise their military resources. The tide of German 
conquest had now reached its height, but there was a 
good deal in the military and naval situation to 
engender misgiving and even despair of a clear, 
unmistakable victory being secured on either side. 

The uneasy stirring of this peace talk brought to 
the fore the question of the aims with which we were 
pursuing the War, and the terms on which we hoped 
to end it. In August, 1916, the matter was raised 
in the War Committee, and Sir William Robertson, 
amongst others, was asked by the Prime Minister to 

832 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 833 

prepare a memorandum setting forth the views of the 
General Staff on the peace terms desirable from the 
military point of view. Sir William Robertson’s 
memorandum, dated 31st August, 1916, is in many 
respects a very remarkable document to have been 
written in the circumstances of the time. It reads : — 

t£ 1. Although the end of the War is yet by no 
means in sight, negotiations for peace, in some 
form or other, may arise any day, and 
Sir William un less we are prepared for them we 

peaclproposals ma Y find ourselves at a great dis- 
advantage, not only as compared with 
our enemy but also as compared with our Allies. 
It is not unlikely that M. Briand already possesses 
very decided views on the subject, carefully worked 
out for him under his general direction by the 
clever people who serve him, and who do not 
appear on the surface of political life. At a hastily 
summoned council we should have no chance 
against him, armed with a definite policy to which 
he may beforehand, and unknown to us, have 
committed the Russians and perhaps other Powers 
of the Entente. If this should happen, the Germans 
might take advantage of it to drive in a wedge 
between us and the other Entente Powers, with the 
result that we might find ourselves without support 
in those claims which w T e may be compelled to 
make, more especially in regard to the disposal 
of the captured German colonies. We need there- 
fore to decide, without loss of time, as to what our 
policy is to be ; then place it before the Entente 
Pow r ers and ascertain in return what are their 
aims, and so endeavour to arrive at a clear under- 
standing before we meet our enemies in conference. 



834 


WAR MEMOIRS 


2. For centuries past — though unfortunately by 
no means continuously — our policy has been to 
help to maintain the balance between the Con- 
tinental Powers which have always been divided by 
their interests and sympathies into opposing groups. 
At one time the centre of gravity has been in 
Madrid, at another in Vienna, at another in Paris, 
and at another in St. Petersburg. We have 
thwarted, or helped to thwart, each and every 
Power in turn which has aspired to Continental 
predominance ; and concurrently as a consequence 
we have enlarged our own sphere of imperial 
ascendancy. As part of this traditional policy 
we have aimed at maintaining British maritime 
supremacy, and at keeping a weak Power in 
possession of the Low Countries. In more recent 
years a new preponderance has been allowed to 
grow up, of which the centre of gravity has been 
in Berlin, and the result of it is the present War. 

3. It is submitted that the basis of peace 
negotiations must be the three principles for 
which we have so often fought in the past and 
for which we have been compelled to fight now, 
namely : — 

(a) The maintenance of the balance of power 
in Europe ; 

(, b ) The maintenance of British maritime 
supremacy ; and 

( c ) The maintenance of a weak Power in the 
Low Countries. 

4. If and when these general principles, and 
such others as are deemed necessary, are accepted 
by His Majesty’s Government it will be possible 
to formulate the conditions upon which, and upon 
which only, we would be prepared to negotiate. 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 835 

Xo useful purpose would be served by discussing 
these conditions until the general principles have 
been settled, but some of the many questions 
demanding examination may be mentioned by 
way of showing how important it is to commence 
investigation with as little delay as possible. It 
may be added that this paper is written mainly 
from a military standpoint, and in this connection 
it cannot be too often remembered that the con- 
ditions upon which peace is concluded will govern, 
or at any rate ought to govern, the size and nature 
of the army subsequently required by us. 

5. If the balance of power in Europe is to be 
maintained it follows that the existence of a strong 
Central European Power is essential, and that such 
a State must be Teutonic, as a Slav nation, the 
only other alternative, would always lean towards 
Russia, which would accordingly obtain a pre- 
ponderant position and so destroy the very principle 
which we desire to uphold. On the other hand, 
as Germany is the chief European competitor with 
us on the sea, it would be advantageous to make 
such terms of peace as would check the development 
of her navy and of her mercantile marine. In 
other words, it would be to the interests of the 
British Empire to leave Germany reasonably strong 
on land, but to weaken her at sea. The full extent 
to which His Majesty's Government have already 
been committed is not known to the General Staff, 
but apparently it is the intention to break up 
Austria-Hungary. By the Roumanian Political 
Convention a large part of Eastern Hungary will 
be transferred to Roumania ; Italy will no doubt 
insist on retaining Trieste with Istria and some of 
the neighbouring districts ; and Serbia is to be 


vol. n 


T 



WAR MEMOIRS 


given part at least of Herzegovina, Bosnia and 
Slavonia. The chief problems to be determined 
are the disposal of Austria proper, of the Magyar 
district of Hungary, of the Northern Slav provinces 
of Bohemia, Moravia and Galicia and finally, 
whether there shall be access to the Adriatic from 
the north otherwise than through Italian or 
Serbian territory. It is clear that all these provinces 
cannot become independent States. Galicia may 
be absorbed in a new Polish Kingdom, but Bohemia 
and Moravia on the one side and Hungary on the 
other will be difficult of disposal. Acting on the 
principle of maintaining a strong Germany, it might 
be advantageous if Austria proper were incorporated 
in that Empire, more especially as thereby ten 
million South Germans would be brought in as a 
counterpoise to Prussia. The other alternative, 
which has the advantage of settling the question 
of the disposal of the various provinces, is to 
maintain a diminished Austria-Hungary, and in 
that case an Adriatic port, Fiume for choice, 
should be allotted to it. This new Austria- 
Hungary would very probably form a very close 
union with Germany, but such a union might be 
not altogether to our disadvantage on land as 
limiting the power of Russia and the Slav States, 
and on sea as preventing the Mediterranean from 
becoming a French and Italian lake. 

6. As regards the western boundaries of 
Germany we will presumably be obliged to agree 
to the wishes of the French with regard to Alsace 
and Lorraine. Belgium must be restored to her 
pre-war condition, and it may be desirable that 
the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg should be added 
to her territories. It would be advantageous if 



THE KXOCK-Qt'T BLOW 837 

Belgium could be given free aece^ from the tea 
to Antwerp by transferring to her that part of 
Seeland which lies south of the Scheldt. In this 
case Holland might be given compensation in 
East Friesland and in the East Frisian Islands. 

7. On the north it is to be wished that the whole 
of Schleswig and possibly a part of Holstein should 
be restored to Denmark. From a naval point of 
view it would be of the highest importance to take 
away from Germany the Kiel Canal — which might 
be internationalised — the Harbour of Kiel, the 
North Frisian Islands, and the eastern shores of 
the Heligoland Bight. These questions, as all 
others of a naval nature, are of course matters for 
the Admiralty to advise upon. 

8. On the east the boundaries of Germany will 
depend on those that may be given to Poland. A 
difficulty in the way of creating this new State is to 
provide it with a sea port. The Poles themselves 
are desirous of having Dantzig, and state, in support 
of this claim, that 60 per cent, of the population of 
West Prussia is Polish. It would, however, scarcely 
seem feasible in any circumstances to cut off East 
Prussia from Germany, and it is hard to believe 
that Germany will ever be so crushed as to consent 
to the transfer of Posen to Poland, unless the latter 
were to form a State of the German Empire under 
a German Prince, a contingency which presumably 
could only occur in the event of a German victory. 
As regards Poland, we shall probably be obliged 
to conform to Russian wishes. 

g. Bulgaria may either secede from the Central 
Powers and be allowed to retain her existing 
territories, plus the uncontested zone of Macedonia, 
or she may fight on to the end. In the latter case. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


if and when Russia is established in Constantinople, 
it is possible that she may try to annex Bulgaria, 
and eventually to link it up with Bessarabia by 
w resting the Dobrudja from Roumania. 

10. The principal suggestions here made for 
examination are that Germany should be reduced 
on the west and north by the cession to other 
Powei's of parts of Alsace and Lorraine, East 
Friesland, Schleswig, and part of Holstein ; that 
there should be some rectification of frontier due 
to the creation of Poland ; and that in the south 
she should be strengthened either by the incor- 
poration of Austria proper, or by a close union 
with a much diminished Austria-Hungary ; and 
that her naval power should be shaken by taking 
away from her the Kiel Canal and various districts 
on the North Sea and Baltic winch are of great 
maritime importance. 

11. It is apparently the intention to break up 
the Turkish Empire by handing over Constan- 
tinople and the Straits to Russia, and by dividing 
up Mesopotamia, Syria, and parts of Asia Minor. 
This intention does not affect the question of the 
future boundaries of Germany in Europe, but it is 
of importance as preventing German development 
in the Near East. 

12. In Asia outside the Turkish Empire, our 
main concern is with Persia, and there seems no 
reason why any agreement that it may be necessary 
to make with Russia concerning that country 
should be discussed at the Peace Conference. 

13. Our future relations with our Allies demand 
as close consideration as our relations with our 
enemies. What is our policy to be towards the 
French in Salonika, towards the Italians and French 



THE KNOCK-OUT R LOW flgp 

in Albania, towards the Italians in Ada Minor, 
towards the Russians in the Balkans, and towards 
the Slav world generally in connection with the 
creation of Poland ? It is well to remember that 
the present grouping of the Powers is not a 
permanency, and indeed it may continue but a 
very short time after the War is over. 

14. With regard to her colonies, Germany will 
have lost the whole of them when the campaign 
in German East Africa has been completed. They 
are : — 


Kiauchau 

Togoland 

The Cameroon s 

German South-West Africa 

German East Africa 

German New Guinea 

The Bismarck Archipelago 

The Caroline, Marshall, Marianne, Solomon 
and Samoan Islands, in the Pacific. 

Germany is certain to make strenuous efforts to 
recover all or most of these Colonies in order that 
she may keep her “ place in the sun ” and preserve 
at least the semblance of a position as a world 
power. She is therefore likely to put forward 
tempting bargains to those Powers who are not 
interested in order that pressure may be brought 
to bear upon those Powers who are interested to 
relinquish their claims. We alone are interested 
in all these Colonies, and France only in the 
Cameroons, Belgium in East Africa, and Japan 
in Kiauchau and the Northern Pacific Islands. 
It is easy to see therefore that if the cession of a 



WAR MEMOIRS 


portion of, say, Poland to Russia, or of Alsace- 
Lorraine to France, or even the complete evacuation 
of Belgium is made conditional by Germany upon 
our giving up Togoland, South-West and East 
Africa, and the Southern Pacific Islands, we may 
be placed in a difficult position. 

15. Kiauchau, the Marianne, Caroline and 
Marshall Islands have been occupied by, and are 
being administered by, the Japanese, and Japan 
is unlikely to release her hold on them without a 
substantial quid pro quo, which it will not be easy 
to find. 

16. The Samoan Islands were occupied by, 
and are now administered by, the Government of 
New Zealand, which is likely to attach a high 
sentimental value to this, the first conquest of a 
young people. The same applies to German New 
Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomon 
Islands, which were occupied by and are now in the 
hands of the Australian Government, who have 
the further inducement to keep what they have got, 
that these islands form a valuable buffer between the 
mainland and possible Japanese encroachment. 

17. In Africa the difficulties are even greater. 
The Union of South Africa, with the experience 
of this war behind it, is unlikely to tolerate the 
neighbourhood of a great foreign power. They 
have conquered German South-West Africa with 
their own resources, and taken a leading part in 
the campaign in East Africa. We are, therefore, 
likely to enter the Peace Conference with Togoland 
as the only possession which we can use freely for 
the purpose of bargaining. 

18. The many problems which the future 
disposal of the German Colonies involve require 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 841 

vcrv full consideration, and no time should be lost 
in obtaining the views of the Dominions, and in 
deciding on the attitude to be adopted in regard 
to the other Entente Powers. 

19. Another question requiring discussion and 
settlement, as far as possible, is that of enemy 
proposals for an armistice pending negotiations for 
peace. The existence of the Entente blockade 
makes it extremely difficult to suggest any equitable 
terms on which an armistice could be arranged. 
From the point of view of the Entente the main- 
tenance of the blockade during the armistice is 
absolutely essential, as otherwise the Central Powers 
would be able to provision themselves during the 
armistice and would consequently be in a much 
better position to recommence hostilities if the 
negotiations for peace were to collapse. The 
enemy would no doubt strongly oppose a 
maintenance of the blockade because it would 
progressively weaken him every day that it con- 
tinued, with the result that at the end of the 
armistice he would be in a worse position than at 
the commencement. But we may hope that during 
the same period his position would, if there were 
no armistice, become worse, and we cannot allow 
him to reap an advantage from an armistice 
which he would not obtain if there were no 
armistice. In fact we need not concern ourselves 
with him. The last thing Germany would do, in 
similar circumstances, would be to give the least 
consideration to the difficulties of her enemy. 
Moreover, our desire will be to conclude the 
negotiations as quickly as possible, whereas the 
removal of the blockade will almost certainly tend 
to lengthen them indefinitely. 



842 


WAR MEMOIRS 


20. There seem, therefore, to be three courses 
which require consideration : — 

{a) Refuse an armistice altogether and con- 
tinue fighting during peace negotiations or until 
the enemy surrenders unconditionally. 

(b) Limit the armistice to land and air 
operations ; maritime operations, whether sub- 
marine or otherwise, being continued. 

(c) Agree to some kind of rationing policy 
during the armistice, calculated to leave the 
Central Powers in the same economic position 
at the close as at the beginning of the armistice. 

21. All three courses have their objections. 
As regards ( a ) it would not be easy to conduct 
peace negotiations while active operations were in 
progress, as the constant fluctuations in the fighting 
might have a corresponding influence on the 
negotiations. It must also be remembered that 
the negotiations would necessarily take a long time 
as so many different Powers are concerned, to say 
nothing of the conflicting interests and large 
areas involved. 

22. On the other hand it will be difficult to 
draft satisfactory terms for an armistice even if it 
is confined to land and air operations alone, for 
unless the terms are most precise and can anticipate 
all possible contingencies, constant complaints will 
be made as to infringements of its conditions and 
innumerable disputes may in this way arise. 
Further, if it were decided to grant an armistice 
as in ( b ), and submarine attacks on passenger and 
merchants vessels were continued, the Conference 
proceedings might become embittered and a settle- 
ment rendered the more difficult. Course ( c ) is 
not recommended. The more hungry the enemy 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 843 

is kept the better, and after all he probably has 
enough to live upon. Also, it would be difficult 
to arrange a scale of rations that would be 
acceptable to all parties. 

23. It is quite evident that the question is beset 
by numerous difficulties and therefore its examina- 
tion is the more urgent. On the whole it seems 
hardly possible to refuse an armistice, but it is 
necessary that we should have some definite 
guarantees of good faith, and therefore it is suggested 
that the granting of an armistice should at least 
be made conditional on : — 

(a) The immediate withdrawal of all enemy 
troops inside their pre-war frontiers ; 

(. b ) Immediate release of all prisoners of war 
held by the enemy ; 

(c) Tentative surrender of a certain portion 
of the enemy fleet. 

W. R. Robertson, General, 
Chief of the Imperial General Staff. 

War Office, 

31st August, 1916.” 

Apart from the interest of this document as setting 
out the ideas of the military authorities upon the 
territorial measures that should be taken to limit the 
perils of a recurrence of the German menace, it is 
of value in that it reflects the expectation current at 
the time that peace negotiations might not be far 
distant on the horizon. 

There were, however, marked differences in the 
attitude adopted by various influential people to this 
prospect. Many who had entered the War reluctantly 
felt that once it had been forced upon us, it would be 



WAR MEMOIRS 


844 

a real disaster if peace were made before it had been 
demonstrated clearly that no military machine, 
however perfect, could prevail in the end against 
the roused conscience of civilisation. But this view 
was by no means fully appreciated and shared in all 
quarters. In face of our dubious military position 
and unsatisfactory outlook, there were those who felt 
attracted towards the possibility of a prompt if 
inconclusive peace. 

The third campaign of the War was now drawing 
to a close and the Allies seemed further than ever 
from achieving a favourable determination 
Strong position Q f the issue. At the end of the first 
Powers campaign Belgium had been almost en- 

tirely occupied by the enemy ; a large 
and important section of Northern France had also 
been overrun by the Germans, and even after the 
retreat from the Marne ten of the richest provinces 
of France remained in enemy occupation. At the 
end of the second year’s campaign Serbia had fallen 
entirely into the hands of the Central Powers, 
Bulgaria with its brave army had joined the enemy 
and thousands of square miles of Russian territory 
had been conquered and were adding to the resources 
of the enemy in food, timber and labour. 

By the end of the third summer Roumania had 
been crushed and most of its territory, including its 
capital, was in enemy occupation. Invaluable reserves 
of oil and corn were added to the enemy stores of 
essential supply. The Balkans were thus almost 
entirely in the hands of the Central Powers, for whose 
munitions the road to Constantinople had been 
cleared. Turkey had been resuscitated and was 
making a formidable contribution to the military 
strength of its allies. She was holding up at one point 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 845 

or another hundreds of thousands of British and 
French troops. We had been driven by Turkish 
forces out of the Dardanelles, and a British army had 
surrendered to the Turks in Mesopotamia. In the 
west, attempts made with colossal losses to release 
the fierce grip of the German Army on the soil of 
France had not succeeded in producing any tangible 
result. The Germans had been hammered by the 
most formidable artillery ever mobilised on a battle- 
field and they had suffered severely, and had to 
abandon some territory, but their casualties were not 
comparable with those inflicted on the French and 
notably on the British Army, and the territorial gain 
was insignificant, whether computed in superficies or 
strategy. The German attack on Verdun had failed, 
but the French had even there lost considerably more 
men than the Germans. 

The French nation was bleeding at every pore, 
and no one could visit France without feeling that 
although the courage of this gallant 
Outlook in^ people was undaunted and its spirit 
Italy 6 m unbroken, its ardour was being quenched 
in the blood of its sons. Official reports 
from Italy were far from encouraging. The Italian 
people were by no means as united in their decision 
to enter the War as the other belligerents. Their 
inadequately equipped troops had since May, 1915, 
performed prodigies of valour and triumphs of 
engineering skill in scaling fortresses drilled and 
blasted out of the great mountains that lowered over 
the Italian plains ; but progress had been slow, and 
losses had been heavy. Recently, there had been a 
serious setback. The Cabinet were informed early 
in November by Sir Rennell Rodd, our Ambassador 
in Rome, upon the accuracy of whose reports on the 



WAR MEMOIRS 


846 

Italian position we all placed implicit confidence, 
that — 

“ there were already in Italy certain symptoms 
of war -weariness and discontent at the protraction 
of the struggle. Great Britain is represented as 
the only country anxious to prolong the struggle 
a outrance for her own ends. It would be wrong 
to pretend that there exists here the same grim 
determination to carry through as prevails in France 
and in the British Empire.” 


The Russian armies were broken and quite unable 
to offer any effective resistance to the German attack, 
Russian and although their position in respect of 

collapse and. ammunition and rifles was supposed to 
approach of have improved during the year it was 
jeoolunon q U ite clear that their equipment would 
not enable them to stand up much longer to the 
formidable artillery at the disposal of Hindenburg’s 
armies. Ten thousand tons of ammunition stacked 
at Archangel had, either through carelessness or 
treachery, been blown up. The whole administration 
was slack, incompetent, and drenched with cor- 
ruption. No wonder that the Russian people were 
seething with discontent. The peasantry were per- 
meated with sullen disaffection. The workers in the 
towns were becoming more difficult and insub- 
ordinate. Strikes multiplied and street demonstra- 
tions were becoming a menacing feature. The soldiers 
had ceased to believe in the possibility of victory, and 
whether they were called upon to advance or to 
resist they obeyed mechanically, but their response 
lacked spirit or confidence. Discipline alone held 
them in the trenches. Food everywhere throughout 
Russia was becoming scarce. Revolution was only 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 847 

a question of time. It was taken for granted on all 
hands. Although we were assured by our repre- 
sentative in Russia that it would not occur until the 
War was over, the Allies could not rely upon a 
population saturated with a spirit of disgust with its 
Government to go on risking precious lives at the 
behest and for the sake of an autocracy which no 
longer commanded respect, and which in fact had 
become universally despised among all classes high 
and low. There were hopes that Russian resistance 
might last long enough to hold up a considerable 
proportion of the Central Powers’ Armies until the 
Allies on the Western and Italian Fronts had at last 
achieved the long-expected “ break through.” But 
that hope was becoming increasingly precarious and 
in the event it proved to be illusory. A complete 
collapse of the Russian resistance meant two or three 
million German and Austrian troops, with their 
formidable train of artillery, released for the Western 
and Italian Fronts, to attack an exhausted France 
and discouraged Italy. 

There was another impending peril which 
threatened the very life of Britain — the sinking of our 
merchant ships by enemy submarines. 
Giowth of The German Admiralty had set itself the 
menace ™ 6 task of increasing its submarine fleet 
fourfold in numbers. The increase in 
size and power of these elusive vessels of destruction 
was more menacing than the augmentation in their 
numbers. It meant that the area of attack was 
widened. The newer types could travel into the 
ocean and hunt far and wide for their prey. The 
difficulties of organising effective protection were 
thereby considerably enhanced. The output of the 
German yards was multiplying at an alarming rate, 



WAR MEMOIRS 


848 

and the figures of our losses leapt up steeply week by 
week. The defence was by no means equal to the 
assault. It had to fight an invisible foe — an 
enemy who left no spoor behind, but who destroyed 
and then disappeared, pursuing his course in the track- 
less depths, unseen, unseeable, and untraceable, 
leaving nothing behind to indicate direc- 
Figmes of tion or distance. 

shipping losses The following table shows the rate at 
which British merchant vessels were being 
sunk by submarines during 1916 : — 


Date. 


No. 

Tonnage. 

January, 1916 

5 

62,288 

February 

55 

7 

75,860 

March 

55 

19 

99,089 

April 

55 

• • 37 

141,193 

May 

55 

12 

64,251 

June 

55 

11 

38,978 

July 

55 

21 

82,432 

August 

55 

. . 22 

43,354 

September 

55 

34 

104,572 

October 

55 

41 

176,248 

November 

55 

42 

168,809 

December 

53 

.. 36 

182,292 


This is how the position appeared at that time to 
Lord Robert Cecil, who was then an influential 
member of the Cabinet : — 

“ One thing is clear. Our situation is grave. 
It is certain that unless the utmost national effort 
is made it may become desperate, particularly in 
the matter of shipping. The position in Allied 
countries is even more serious. France is within 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 849 

measurable distance of exhaustion. The political 
outlook in Italy is menacing. Her finance is 
tottering. In Russia there is great discouragement. 
She has long been on the verge of revolution. 
Even her man-power seems coming near its 
limits.” 

This was a situation that must necessarily invite 
doubt in the stoutest hearts and recruit patriotic and 
humanitarian sentiment to the side of immediate 
peace. But for reasons which I give later on I felt 
that any attempt to make peace at a time when the 
Germans were at the climax of strength and achieve- 
ment, whilst we were only just beginning to mobilise 
our full power, would necessarily be unsatisfactory 
and inconclusive. 

The attitude of France towards any peace overtures 
at this stage was one of uncompromising hostility. 
The French despite the gloom of the outlook. It was 
attitude : set out very clearly at a sitting of the 

M. Briand' s French Chamber in a speech of exceptional 
speech power by the Prime Minister, M. Briand. 

A Socialist by the name of M. Brizon had delivered 
a speech on 19th September, 1916, in the course of 
which he dwelt upon the losses of France and ended 
by asking if France had not suffered enough, and 
whether she could not now negotiate peace. M. 
Briand in reply delivered one of the most eloquent 
speeches of his life. I quote an extract from that 
speech. When he sat down he received from the 
Chamber what is said to be “ such an ovation 
as has never been accorded to a Prime Minister,” 
and the House by 421 votes to 26 ordered the speech 
to be placarded throughout France. It may therefore 
be assumed that it represented the determined and 



WAR MEMOIRS 


850 

even fierce resistance of the country which had 
suffered most from the War to any premature efforts 
to make peace. 

“ Look at your country, M. Brizon. It has 
been violently attacked. It stands for something 
in the world as a propagator of those ideas which 
have done work for the world’s progress. When 
your country, which has for two years had the 
honour to be champion of right, has stayed the 
invader, and defends the whole world, when its 
blood flows, you say, ‘ Negotiate peace.’ What a 
challenge, what an outrage to the memory of our 
dead ! [Loud cheers, and a shout, ‘ debout les 
morts ! ’] What, M. Brizon ! Ten of your 
country’s provinces are invaded. Our old men 
and women and children have been carried off. 
They bear their misery bravely, awaiting deliver- 
ance at your hands. Is it then that you come to 
us saying, ‘ Negotiate, go and ask for peace ’ ? 
You little know France if you imagine that she 
can accept economy of milliards, or even of blood 
in such humiliating circumstances. What peace 
would you get for France ? It would be a peace 
of war. If you wish that peace should shine upon 
the world, M. Brizon, if you wish the idea of 
liberty and justice to prevail, ask for victory, and 
not for the peace obtainable to-day, for that peace 
would be humiliating and dishonouring. There 
is not a Frenchman who can possibly desire it.” 

On the other hand Germany had her troubles. 
A blockade had been tightly drawn around the 
Central Powers, while on the other hand the Allies 
had developed very extensive arrangements for 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 85I 

securing their own essential supplies. Austria and 
Turkey were broken reeds. Germany could not 
Gerncf-'s lean her hopes too heavily upon them. 
ouilookkss In Britain the work of the Ministry of 
jaiow able than Munitions was now bearing copious fruit, 
her position anc J t j ie ac J 0 ption of national service was 
securing hundreds of thousands of men for our armies. 

It was natural, therefore, that Germany should be 
ready to welcome and foster suggestions from any 
quarter urging an early peace settlement, while her 
strength remained intact and her position on the 
War map lent colour to the suggestion that she was 
Rumows of a substantially a victorious Power. Rumours 
peace move indeed reached us that her emissaries in 
by President the United States were angling for inter- 
^ ll " un vention by President Wilson with a view 

to an early and favourable peace. 

The President himself would not have been without 
his own reasons for being attracted by the suggestion 
of proposing such an intervention. The Presidential 
election w^as at hand — it was due at the beginning of 
November — and there was the very large and in- 
fluential German-American vote to consider. He was, 
moreover, standing on his reputation as the man who 
had kept America out of the War, and anything he 
could do to reduce the very real danger — a danger 
which not long after took concrete form — that 
America would after all be drawn into the conflict, 
would obviously help his election campaign. The 
moment was, however, in my view utterly inappro- 
priate for the discussion of any peace terms which 
would be remotely satisfactory to the Allies. I will 
not pretend that my opinion was shared by all 
members of the British Cabinet. There were those 
among them who had grave doubts about the military 


VOL. 11 


u 



WAR MEMOIRS 


852 

position and the outlook for our shipping, our food 
supplies, and financial reserves. Lord Grey, Lord 
Lansdowne, Mr. M'Kenna, and Mr. Runciman in 
particular were obviously uneasy about the prospect. 
They had misgivings as to the possibility of continuing 
the War beyond Christmas, 1916. It has become 
clear from statements which have since been pub- 
lished that a similar impression was widely held 
abroad. 

I felt it vitally important to throw out a sharp 
challenge to the defeatist spirit which was working 
from foreign quarters to bring about an inconclusive 
peace, and which appeared to find an echo even in 
some responsible quarters in our own country. 

I was no friend to war. It was only with the 
utmost reluctance that I had at the last minute 
My determine a g ree d to the ultimatum of Britain. My 
tion to go pacifist attitude was very well known, and 
w * tfl had it not been for Germany’s violation of 
t e fig t Belgian neutrality, I should up to the last 
have refused to remain in a Cabinet which implicated 
the country in war with all its carnage and organised 
barbarism. But once having entered on the War, 
I was no less resolute to pursue it until at least the 
object of our sacrifice had been achieved. It was 
not merely a question of abiding by the Shakespearian 
counsel : — 

tc Beware 

Of entrance to a quarrel : but being in 
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.” 

A conference under existing conditions might have 
involved a peace which would have been a virtual 
and practical abandonment of the cause which 
compelled us to take up arms. 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 


Accordingly, copying an example which had 
been set shortly before by Lord Grey himself, I 
granted, on 28th September, 1916, an 
Interview uitii interview to an American correspondent 
Hole aid — in this case Mr. Roy W. Howard, the 

President of the United Press of America 
— in which I outlined my views as to the attitude this 
country and her Allies should adopt towards any 
talk of an immediate peace. 

I began by pointing out that Britain had only now 
got into her stride in her war effort, and was 
justifiably suspicious of any suggestion that President 
Wilson should choose this moment to “ butt in ” 
with a proposal to stop the War before we could 
achieve victory. “ There had been no such inter- 
vention when we were being hammered through the 
first two years, as yet untrained and ill-equipped. 
Our men had taken their punishment without 
squealing. They had held grimly on while the 
winning Germans talked of annexing Belgium and 
Poland as their spoils of victory, and of making it a 
fight to a finish with England.” 

“ The whole world — including neutrals of the 
highest purposes and humanitarians with the best of 
jVo outside motives — must know that there can be 
interference no outside interference at this stage. 
before victory Britain asked no intervention when she 
2s won was un p re p ar ed to fight. She will tolerate 

none now that she is prepared, until the Prussian 
military despotism is broken beyond repair.” 

It was idle for people now to deplore the horror 
of continued conflict, when their pity had not moved 
them to stop it while British troops were being gassed, 
and exposed to an overpowering attack that used 
ten shells to their one. 



^54 


WAR MEMOIRS 


“ But in the British determination to carry the 
fight to a decisive finish there is something more 
than the natural demand for vengeance. The 
inhumanity and pitilessness of the fighting that 
must come before a lasting peace is possible is not 
comparable with the cruelty that would be involved 
in stopping the War while there remains the possi- 
bility of civilisation again being menaced from the 
same quarter. Peace now or at any time before 
the final and complete elimination of this menace 
is unthinkable. No man and no nation with the 
slightest understanding of the temper of the citizen 
army of Britons, which took its terrible hammering 
without a whine or a grumble, will attempt to 
call a halt now.” 

“ But how long do you figure this can and must 
go on ? ” I was asked. 

“ There is neither clock nor calendar in the British 
Army to-day,” was my reply. £< Time is the least 
vital factor. Only the result counts — not the time 
consumed in achieving it. It took England 20 years 
to defeat Napoleon, and the first 15 of those years 
were black with British defeat. It will not take 
20 years to win this war, but whatever time is required, 
it will be done. 

“ And I say this, recognising that we have only 
begun to win. There is no disposition on our side to 
fix the hour of ultimate victory after the first success. 
We have no delusion that the War is nearing an end. 
We have not the slightest doubt as to how it is to end.” 

“ But what of France ? ” I was asked. “ Is there 
the same determination there to stick to the end ; 
the same idea of fighting until peace terms can be 
dictated by Germany’s enemies ? ” 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 855 

“ The world at large has not yet begun to appreciate 
the magnificence, the nobility, the wonder of France,” 
I replied. c "’ I had the answer to your 
Tribute inquiry given me a few days ago by a 
to France noble Frenchwoman. This woman had 
given four sons — she had one more left 
to give to France. In the course of my talk with her 
I asked if she did not think the struggle had gone 
far enough. Her reply, without a moment’s hesita- 
tion, was : ‘ The fight will never have gone far 

enough until it shall have made a repetition of this 
horror impossible.’ That mother was voicing the 
spirit of France. Yes, France will stick to the 
end.” 

I pointed to the defence of Verdun as evidence of 
French staying power. While the British were 
buoyed up by a sporting spirit, the French were 
burning with an unquenchable patriotism. The 
motto of the Allies was “ Never again ! ” I was 
myself fresh from a visit to the battlefields, and the 
ghastliness I had witnessed was something which 
must never be re-enacted. The War must make 
that certain. 

This was the substance of my interview, which 
was given very wide currency, and was discussed in 
every country. The “ Policy of a Knock- 
Effect of Out Blow,” as it was called, caused great 
interview exasperation, not only to the Central 
Powers (as witnessed by the constant 
reference to it in their Press and in the speeches of 
their politicians), but even to several of my colleagues 
in the British Cabinet, who, if not exactly pacifists, 
were leaning towards an early peace of accommoda- 
tion. Several of my colleagues regarded the interview 
as provocative, and many held that it did not 



WAR MEMOIRS 


856 

accurately represent the attitude of the Government 
towards the idea of an immediate peace. 

It was not long before I discovered that this 
interview had caused a great deal of perturbation 
and animadversion amongst the members of the 
Cabinet. I received the following letter from 
Viscount Grey* : — 

“ 29th September, 1916. 
My dear Lloyd George, 

The more I think of it the more I am appre- 
hensive of the possible effect of the warning to 
Wilson in your interview, and I want 
Viscount to explain why this is so. 

1. Briand’s speech, and I think steps 
taken in Washington, has made any 
further warning to Wilson unnecessary for the 
present. 

2 . We shall now be held responsible in America 
for warning Wilson off the course. He will now 
point to your words as the reason why he can do 
nothing, and this will tend to bring him and 
Bethmann-Hollweg together. 

3. Wilson will be more disposed to put upon 
us the pressure that Congress has urged him to 
put, which may be very inconvenient. 

4. The extreme submarine warfare will be 
precipitated by Germany, who will tell Wilson 
that as he can do nothing because of us, Germany 
must use every means against us. Wilson and 
his supporters will be less inclined than before to 
resent submarine warfare against us. 

5. It has always been my view that until the 
Allies were sure of victory the door should be kept 
open for Wilson’s mediation. It is now closed for 

* Sir Edward Grey created Viscount Grey of Fallodon, July, 1916. 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 857 

ever as far as we are concerned. I am still 

anxious about the effect of submarine warfare. 

I hope you ■won’t think me captious in questioning 
one point in our interview of which the rest not 
only draws my assent but my admiration. I may 
be quite wrong in my view, but a public warning 
to the President of the United States is an important 
step, and I wish I had had an opportunity of putting 
these considerations before you and discussing them 
with you. 

No answer needed now as nothing more can be 
done till we see the effect. 

Yours sincerely, 

Grey of F.” 


To this I replied : — 


“ October 2, 1916. 


My dear Grey, 

Thanks for your letter. I wonder whether you 
are still of the same opinion after reading M.I.I.’s 
secret information ? Have you seen it ? 

Spring-Rice’s telegram 2943 seems to 
y repy a j so V ery significant. If the hands of 

Wilson had been forced — and there is 
every indication that the Germans and Irish 
co-operation could do so — then we should be in 
a very tight place. Any cessation of hostilities 
now would be a disaster ; and although we could 
always refuse or put up impossible terms, it is much 
better that we should not be placed in that predica- 
ment. You could not have warned off the United 
States without doing it formally. I could commit 
a serviceable indiscretion ; you could not. It 
would ruin you ; I am inoculated ! 



8 5 8 


WAR MEMOIRS 


... In so far as callous impenitence will allow 
me, I am genuinely sorry for adding one dram 
to your cup of anxieties. 

Ever sincerely, 

D. Lloyd George.” 

Lord Grey committed himself to a series of forecasts 
in this letter all of which were falsified by the event. 

He predicted that it would encourage 
Giey's fears Wilson to “do nothing and would tend 
^events'* ^ to bring him and Bethmann-Hollweg to- 
gether.” A few months later, when I was 
Prime Minister, Wilson broke off diplomatic relations 
with Germany, and a few weeks after doing so entered 
into the War on the side of the Allies. Grey predicted 
that another result of my letter might be an increase 
in the pressure which the President would bring to 
bear upon us. That also turned out to be an un- 
realised apprehension. He foresaw that my interview 
would precipitate an extreme submarine warfare by 
Germany, and that President Wilson as a result of it 
would be less inclined to resent submarine warfare 
against us. Germany had decided at the beginning 
of 1916 to increase fourfold the number and potency 
of her submarines. At the end of August she had 
already launched a large number of these new, 
more powerful craft. And so far from Wilson and 
his supporters being less inclined than before to 
resent submarine warfare, it was the intensifica- 
tion and extension of the submarine campaign that 
provoked America to declare war against Germany 
early in 1917. 

As to Grey’s prediction that the door against 
Wilson’s mediation would, as a result of my interview, 
be “ closed for ever as far as we are concerned,” two 



THE KNOCK-OUT BLOW 859 

or three months later President Wilson issued his 
famous Peace Note. 

It is, however, significant of Lord Grey’s frame of 
mind at this time that he seemed to have a doubt 
as to the victory of the Allies — and that he was 
relying as a means of escape from the consequences 
of defeat upon the mediation of the President of the 
United States. 

How little Lord Grey’s estimate of the probable 
effect of my interview corresponded with reality is 
made clear by the reports which came to hand from 
our Ambassador in the United States, Sir C. Spring- 
Rice. In a telegram to the Foreign Secretary, dated 
4th October, 1916, Spring-Rice said : — 


“ I am informed from a very reliable source that 
the President has no intention of making peace 
Spring- proposals. The Secretary of State for 
Rice’s War’s statement has had a great effect. 
ie f°[ ts -°£ I have also reason to believe that action 

American 

attitude will not be taken on the Retaliatory 
Clauses. . . 


He followed this up with a letter dated 6th October, 
1916, in which he wrote : — 

“ Mr. Lloyd George’s statement, which had an 
immense and instantaneous effect in this country, 
put a stop to the peace rumours which for some 
time have been prevalent here. It seems generally 
acknowledged now that the President has no 
intention of offering his mediation at any rate in 
the near future. 35 


The letter also said that the American Government 
was maintaining uncompromising opposition to 



86o 


WAR MEMOIRS 


Germany in regard to any extension of the submarine 
campaign, and explained that the peace rumours 
emanating from German sources were being used by 
them to assist their deals on the stock market. 

“ The publication of a peace rumour is at once 
followed by a general decline on the Stock Ex- 
change, and the authoritative quarter which 
launches such a rumour is in excellent position to 
pro/it by its power .” 

In a later telegram, dated 20th October, 1916, 
Sir C. Spring-Rice reported: “Lloyd George’s 
interview had the most excellent effect here.” There 
is in fact no evidence that my “ Knock-Out Blow ” 
interview did anything to injure our cause in the 
States. On the contrary, it steadied opinion there 
and helped to increase the sympathy felt with us in 
our desperate fight. 



CHAPTER XXXI 


THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 

Should we make or encourage peace overtures whilst 
the issue of the War was still in doubt and the enemy 
had good reason to claim that he had won 
Peace discussed on points ? The British Cabinet was 

Cabinet ^ brought by the intervention of one of its 
most respected members to a searching 
and considered examination of the question. 

The type of partisan pacifist who maintains that 
an honourable and satisfactory peace could have been 
negotiated long before November, 1918, is generally 
anxious to cast the whole of the blame for prolonging 
the War on the Coalition that came into existence 
at the end of 1916. In order to sustain their criticism 
they assume that 1917 afforded the first real oppor- 
tunity for making peace. The discussions which took 
place in the Asquith Cabinet on the desirability of 
encouraging peace overtures and the decision arrived 
at by the Cabinet are either unknown to these critics 
or are wilfully ignored by them. 

The first serious peace movement in Europe 
started immediately after the termination of the 
sanguinary battle of 1916. The horrible and futile 
carnage of the Somme following on the ghastly losses 
of Verdun had sent a thrill of horror through all the 
belligerent lands and there was a distinct movement 
for an interchange of views as to the possibility of 
a settlement. 


861 



WAR MEMOIRS 


In the middle of November Lord Lansdowne 
startled the Cabinet by a memorandum which he 
Lord circulated amongst members with the 

Lansdowne consent of the Prime Minister. It was 
opens the written the day before Mr. Asquith and 

discussion j left England for the Paris Conference, 
and was in the hands of members of the Cabinet on 
our return. This bold document frankly suggested 
doubts as to the possibility of victory. It was at 
least courageous, and proved that he at any rate 
was quite alive to the perils of the Allied situation. 
It was clear that Lord Lansdowne thought a condition 
of stalemate had been reached and that there was no 
prospect of any improvement. 

The text of this memorandum was as follows : — 


“ The members of the War Committee were 
asked by the Prime Minister some weeks ago to 
express their views as to the terms upon 
His which peace might be concluded. I do 

memo- not know whether there has been a general 
response to this invitation, but the only 
reply which I have seen is one written last month 
by the First Lord of the Admiralty, in which he 
deals at some length with the problems which 
might have to be discussed at any Peace Conference. 
Mr. Balfour observes truly that these questions 
cannot be profitably examined except upon an 
agreed hypothesis as to the military position of the 
combatants at the end of the War, and he proceeds 
to assume, though merely for the sake of argument, 
that the Central Powers, either through defeat or 
exhaustion, have to accept the terms imposed upon 
them by the Allies. 

I venture to suggest that the attention of the 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 863 

War Committee might with advantage be directed 
to a somewhat different problem, and 
Doubt of that thev should be invited to give us 
‘victory their opinion as to our present prospects 
of being able to "dictate 5 the kind of 
terms which we should all like to impose upon our 
enemies if we were in a position to do so. 

We are agreed as to the goal, but we do not 
know how far we have really travelled towards it, 
or how much nearer to it we are likely to find our- 
selves even if the War be prolonged for, say, another 
year. What will that year have cost us ? How much 
better will our position be at the end of it? Shall 
we even then be strong enough to c dictate 5 terms ? 

It seems to me almost impossible to overrate the 
importance of these considerations, because it is 
clear that our diplomacy must be governed by an 
accurate appreciation of them. 

We have obtained within the last few days from 
the different Departments of the Government a 
good deal of information as to the situation, naval, 
military and economic. It is far from reassuring. 

From the President of the Board of Trade we 
received on the 26th October a most interesting 
and carefully compiled memorandum 
. tending to show the daily growing short- 
pessimism a S e °* tonnage and its consequences. 

Mr. Runciman comes to the conclusion 
that our shipbuilding is not keeping pace with our 
losses, and that, although the number of our 
vessels is down, the demands on our tonnage are 
not diminished. We must look forward to depend- 
ing more and more on neutral ships, but we can 
be under no illusions as to the precarious nature 
of that resource. I do not think I exaggerate 



WAR MEMOIRS 


864 

when I describe this most important document as 
profoundly disquieting. But in a later memo- 
randum, dated 9th November, the President paints 
the picture in still gloomier colours, and anticipates, 
on the advice of his experts, ‘ a complete breakdown 
in shipping . . . much sooner than June, 1917.’ 

The President of the Board of Agriculture has 
recently presented to the Cabinet his report on 
Food Prospects in 1917. That report 
The food goes to show that there is a world’s 
problem deficit in breadstuffs, that the price of 
bread is likely to go higher, that there 
had been a general failure of the potato crop, that 
the supply of fish is expected to be 64 per cent, 
below the normal, that there is considerable 
difficulty in regard to the supply of feeding-stuffs, 
that the difficulties of cultivation steadily increase, 
that land is likely to go derelict, the yield to decline, 
and the number of livestock to diminish greatly. 

Lord Crawford’s later note, dated 9th November, 
on Home Food Supplies, shows that these anticipa- 
tions were not unduly pessimistic. The position 
has, he tells us, become much worse, and, owing 
to the inroads made upon the agricultural popula- 
tion by the demands of the Army, it is in some 
parts of the country e no longer a question of 
maintaining a moderate standard of cultivation, 
but whether cultivation will cease.’ 

Turning to our naval and military resources, 
we have a report from the First Lord of the 
Admiralty, dated 14th October, from 
Naval which we learn that, in spite of the 
ofdestrovers tremen dous efforts which we have made, 
1 f the size of our Home Fleets is still in- 
sufficient, that we have nearly reached the limit 



THE LANSDOWKE PEACE MOVE 865 

of immediate production in the matter of capital 
ships, that we have not got nearly enough destroyers 
to meet our needs for escort and anti-submarine 
work, that we shall certainly not have enough for 
our Allies, and that the position in regard to light 
cruisers is not much better. From the same report 
we may infer that the submarine difficulty is becom- 
ing acute, and that, in spite of all our efforts, it 
seems impossible to provide an effectual rejoinder 
to it. The increasing size of the enemy 
submarines, the strength of their construction 
(which will apparently oblige us to re-arm our 
merchantmen with a heavier gun), and their 
activity in all parts of the world, point to the same 
conclusion. 

The papers which we have from time to time 
received from the General Staff and from the War 
Committee prove that in the matter of 
Man-power man-power we are nearing the end of 
‘ ’short HS our tet ^ er - The last report of the Man- 

Power Distribution Board seems, in par- 
ticular, to sound a grave note of warning. The 
unexhausted supply of men is, they tell us, now 
very restricted, and the number available can only 
be added to by a still further depletion of industry. 
In the meanwhile Ireland still declines to add to 
the available supply the 150,000 men who would 
be obtainable from that country, and I am not 
aware that any serious attempt is to be made to 
secure them. 

All these seem to me to be very serious factors 
in the calculation which it is our duty to make. 
It will be replied, and no doubt truly, that the 
Central Powers are feeling the pressure of the War 
not less acutely than we feel it, and I hope we shall 



866 


WAR MEMOIRS 


also be told that our staying powers are greater 
than theirs ; but, even if this be so, it is none the 
less our duty to consider, after a careful review of 
the facts, what our plight and the plight of the 
civilised world will be after another year, or, as 
we are sometimes told, two or three more years of 
a struggle as exhausting as that in which we are 
engaged. No one for a moment believes that we 
are going to lose the War ; but what is our chance 
of winning it in such a manner, and within such 
limits of time, as will enable us to beat our enemy 
to the ground and impose upon him the kind of 
terms which we so freely discuss ? 

I do not suppose for an instant that there is any 
weakening in the spirit of the people of this country, 
and I should hope, although I do not feel absolute 
confidence on the subject, that the same might be 
said of our Allies, but neither in their interests 
nor in ours can it be desirable that the War should 
be prolonged, unless it can be shown that we can 
bring it to an effectual conclusion within a reason- 
able space of time. 

What does the prolongation of the War mean ? 

Our own casualties already amount to over 
1,100,000. We have had 15,000 officers killed, 
not including those who are missing. 
Cost of There is no reason to suppose that, as the 
the °War S f° rce a t the front in the different theatres 
of war increases, the casualties will in- 
crease at a slower rate. We are slowly but surely 
killing off the best of the male population of these 
islands. The figures representing the casualties 
of our Allies are not before me. The total must 
be appalling. 

The financial burden which we have already 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 867 

accumulated is almost incalculable. We are adding 
to it at the rate of over £5,000,000 per day. 
Generations will have to come and go before the 
country recovers from the loss which it has sustained 
in human beings, and from the financial ruin and 
the destruction of the means of production which 
are taking place. 

All this it is no doubt our duty to bear, but only 
if it can be shown that the sacrifice will have its 
reward. If it is to be made in vain, if the additional 
year, or two years, or three years, finds us still 
unable to dictate terms, the War with its nameless 
horrors will have been needlessly prolonged, and 
the responsibility of those who needlessly prolong 
such a War is not less than that of those who need- 
lessly provoke it. 

A thorough stocktaking, first by each Ally of 
his own resources, present and prospective, and 
A siock- next by the Allies, or at all events by the 
ta ^ l dd f leadin § Allies, in confidential consultation, 
Allied ° J seems indispensable. Not until such a 
resources stocktaking has taken place will each 
Ally be able to decide which of his desiderata are 
indispensable, and whether he might not be 
prepared to accept less than 20s. in the £ in 
consideration of prompt payment. Not until it 
has taken place will the Allies as a body be able 
to determine the broad outline of their policy or 
the attitude which they ought to assume towards 
those who talk to them of peace. 

I think Sir William Robertson must have had 
some such stocktaking in his mind when he wrote 
the remarkable paper which was circulated to 
the Cabinet on the 31st August. In that paper 
he expressed his belief that negotiations for peace 


vol. n 


v 



WAR MEMOIRS 


868 

in some form or other might arise any day, and he 
urged that ‘ we need therefore to decide without 
loss of time what our policy is to be, then place it 
before the Entente Powers, and ascertain in return 
what are their aims, and so endeavour to arrive 
at a clear understanding before w T e meet our 
enemies in conference.’ The idea may, for all I 
know, have been acted on already. 

Many of us, however, must of late have asked 
ourselves how this war is ever to be brought to an 
end. If we are told that the deliberate conclusion 
of the Government is that it must be fought until 
Germany has been beaten to the ground and sues 
for peace on any terms which we are pleased to 
accord to her, my only observation would be that 
we ought to know something of the data upon 
which this conclusion has been reached. 
Disbelief in To many of us it seems as if the prospect 
blow 0 ” ~° Ut a * knock-out ’ was, to say the least of 
it, remote. Our forces and those of 
France have shown a splendid gallantry on the 
Western Front, and have made substantial ad- 
vances ; but is it believed that these, any more 
than those made in 1915 with equally high hopes 
and accompanied by not less cruel losses, will 
really enable us to ‘ break through 5 ? Can we 
afford to go on paying the same sort of price for 
the same sort of gains ? 

Judging from the comments supplied by the 
General Staff, I should doubt whether the Italian 
offensive, however successful, is likely to have a 
decisive effect. 

At Salonika we are entangled in an extraordin- 
arily difficult enterprise, forced upon us, against 
our better judgment, by our Allies, and valuable 



THE LASSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 869 

only because it occupies enemy troops who would 
otherwise be fighting the Russians and the Rou- 
manians. On the Russian and Roumanian 
frontiers we shall be fortunate if we avoid a disaster, 
which at one moment seemed imminent. General 
Brussiloff’s language is inspiring, but is it really 
justified by the facts ? The history of the Russian 
operations has been very chequered, and -we shall 
never, I am afraid, be free from the danger of 
miscarriages owing to defective strategy, to failure 
of supplies, to corruption in high places, or to 
incidents such as the disastrous explosion which 
has just lost us 10,000 tons of munitions at 
Archangel. 

Again, are we quite sure that, regarded as 
political rather than military assets, our Allies are 
Danger of entirely to be depended upon ? There 
political. have been occasions upon which political 
France a ! nd complications have threatened to affect 
Russia the military situation in France. I quote 
the following sentences from a letter written a few 
days ago by a very shrewd Frenchman : c Rappelez- 
vous bien que la Democratic francaise n’est pas 
menee par son gouvernement ; c’est elle qui le 
mene ; un courant d’ opinion publique en faveur 
de la cessation de la guerre pourrait etre irresistible. 
. . . Au feu, le soldat francais se battra toujours 
comme un heros ; derriere, sa famille pourra bien 
dire : en voila assez ! 5 Italy is always trouble- 
some and exacting. Sir Rennell Rodd, in a 
dispatch dated the 4th November, asks us to take 
note of the fact that there are already in Italy 
5 certain symptoms of war weariness and dis- 
couragement at the protraction of the struggle. 
. . . Great Britain is represented as the only 



WAR MEMOIRS 


country anxious to prolong the struggle a outrance 
for her own ends. ... It would be wrong to 
pretend that there exists here the same grim deter- 
mination to carry through as prevails in France 
and the British Empire.’ The domestic situation 
in Russia is far from reassuring. There have 
been alarming disorders both at Moscow and in 
Petrograd. Russia has had five Ministers 
of the Interior in twelve months, and the fifth 
is described as being by no means secure in his 


seat. 

Our difficulties with the neutrals are, again, 
not likely to diminish. It is highly creditable to 
the Foreign Office that during the last 
Trouble two years we have escaped a breakdown 
with the 0 f our blockade policy, which, in spite 
neutnuo cont j nua i obstruction and bad faith, 

has produced excellent results ; but we have been 
within an ace of grave complications with Sweden 
and the United States. As time goes on the 


neutrals are likely to become more and more restive 
and intolerant of the belligerents, whose right to 
go on disturbing the peace of the civilised world 
they will refuse to admit. 

I may be asked whether I have any practical 
suggestion to offer, and I admit the difficulty of 
replying. But is it not true that, unless the 
apprehensions which I have sketched can be 
shown, after such an investigation as I have 
We should suggested, to be groundless, we ought at 
not any rate not to discourage any movement, 

discourage no matter where originating, in favour of 
peace moves an interchange of views as to the possibility 
of a settlement ? There are many indications 
that the germs of such a movement are already in 



THE LAXSDOWXE PEACE MOVE 871 

existence. One cannot dismiss as unworthy of 
attention the well-substantiated reports which have 
come to us from time to time upon this subject 
from Belgian, Scandinavian, Japanese and Russian 
sources, or such circumstantial stories as those told 
in Sir Esme Howard’s dispatch of the 24th August 
as to the meeting held at Prince Lichnowsky’s 
house, and in Lord Eustace Percy’s memorandum 
as to the intimations made by the Rector of the 
Berlin University. The debates in the Reichstag 
show that the pacifist groups are active and out- 
spoken. From all sides come accounts of the 
impatience of the civil population and their 
passionate yearning for peace. 

It seems to me quite inconceivable that during 
the winter we shall not be sounded by someone 
as to our readiness to discuss terms of peace or 
proposals for an armistice. Are we prepared with 
our reply ? Lord Crawford has dealt with the 
question of an armistice. I am not sure that I 
agree with some of his suggestions, but I am sure 
that he is right in holding that an unconditional 
refusal would be inadmissible. 

As to peace terms, I hope we shall adhere 
steadfastly to the main principle laid down by the 
Prime Minister in the speech which he summed up 
by a declaration that we could agree to no peace 
which did not afford adequate reparation for the 
past and adequate security for the future, but the 
outline was broadly sketched and might be filled 
up in many different ways. The same may be 
said of the not less admirable statement which he 
has just made at the Guildhall, and of the temperate 
speeches which the Secretary of State for Foreign 
Affairs has from time to time delivered. 



872 


WAR MEMOIRS 


But it is unfortunate that, in spite of these 
utterances, it should be possible to represent us and 
Objection our Allies as committed to a policy partly 
to my -vindictive and partly selfish, and so 
insistence irreconcilably committed to that policy 
on victory t j iat we should regard as unfriendly any 
attempt, however sincere, to extricate us from the 
impasse. The interview given by the Secretary 
of State for War in September last to an American 
correspondent has produced an impression which 
it will not be easy to efface. There may have been 
circumstances of which I am unaware, connected 
perhaps with the Presidential election, which made 
it necessary to announce that at the particular 
moment any intervention, however well meant, 
would be distasteful to us or inopportune. He 
said, indeed, that e the world must know that there 
can be no outside interference at this stage ’ — a 
very momentous limitation. For surely it cannot 
be our intention, no matter how long the War lasts, 
no matter what the strain on our resources, to 
maintain this attitude, or to declare, as M. Briand 
declared about the same time, that for us, too, 
c the word peace is a sacrilege.’ Let our naval, 
military and economic advisers tell us frankly 
whether they are satisfied that the knock-out blow 
can and will be delivered. The Secretary of 
State’s formula holds the field, and will do so until 
something else is put in its place. Whether it is 
to hold the field, and, if not, what that something 
else should be, ought surely to depend upon their 
answer, and that again upon the result of the 
careful stocktaking, domestic and international, 
which, I hope, is already taking place. — L. 

November 13, 1916.” 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 873 

“ The above note had been written before the 
discussion, which took place at to-day’s Cabinet, 
from which we learned that the War Committee 
had already decided to take important steps in the 
direction which I have ventured to indicate. — L. 

November 13, 1916.” 

Coming from a statesman of Lord Lansdowne’s 
position and antecedents, this document made a deep 
impression. No one could accuse him of being a 
mere “ pacifist.” He was the author of the Entente 
Cordiale in 1904. He was an unflinching advocate 
of the policy of standing by all the implications 
of the fateful Treaty. 

Before the Cabinet came to any conclusions on the 
Lansdowne memorandum, the Prime Minister invited 
the opinions of the military and naval authorities 
on the suggestion of a possible stalemate. The Chief 
Comments on of Staff, Sir William Robertson, truculently 
the Lansdowne repudiated such a possibility. Ultimate 
by e Robertson v i ctor Y was assured the Allies, provided 
and Haig the advice of the War Office was obediently 
followed in every particular and its demands 
patriotically fulfilled in every detail. There must 
be more men and material hurled at the enemy, and 
the hurling must be done exclusively on the Western 
Front. It was made quite clear that there would 
be still heavier casualties than those already suffered. 
From that Sir William Robertson did not shrink, but 
this further slaughter of British lives must occur in 
France and Flanders and not elsewhere. 

Sir Douglas Haig put in a memorandum on similar 
lines. In this note, which Sir William Robertson 
appended to his answer to the Lansdowne memoran- 
dum, the Commander-in-Chief stresses the difficulties 



WAR MEMOIRS 


874 

of mai n taining any offensive in France during the 
winter, but points out that the conditions of which he 
complains represent only the normal situation at 
that time of the year. On the other side of the 
picture, the Germans had been badly defeated on the 
Somme, and their casualties had been undoubtedly 
heavy — far heavier than those of the Allies. Their 
morale had been lowered seriously. Indeed, he 
reached the conclusion that — 

“ an appreciable proportion of the German soldiers 
are now practically beaten men, ready to surrender 
if they could find opportunity, thoroughly tired of 
the War, and hopeless of eventual success.” 

The Allied troops, on the other hand, were all * 
confident of victory. 

“ It is true that the amount of ground gained is 
not great. That is nothing. Our proved ability 
to get the enemy to move at all from his defensive 
positions was the valuable result of the fighting.” 

Sir Douglas Haig further said that he regarded the 
prospects of success on the Western Front in 1917 as 
most favourable. For this, however, he wanted 
many more troops, and an ample supply of munitions 
— of which “ the enormous quantities required have 
been furnished this year with unfailing regularity.” 
More aircraft, more road and railway material, etc., 
were also wanted. Given these supplies, he and his 
army were confident of being able to achieve ultimate 
victory. From the memoranda put in by the Chief 
of the Imperial Staff and the Gommander-in- Chief 
there could be no doubt as to military opinion about 
our prospects. 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE HOVE 875 

Lord Grey’s contribution was characteristic. His 
position as Foreign Secretary was pivotal when it 
came to a question of making peace or 
Lord, continuing war. We all anxiously awaited 

contribution his guidance. He was the most depart- 
mental of Ministers, and had always 
been buried in his office, with hardly a thought 
for anything else. He scarcely ever expressed any 
opinion on any Cabinet questions outside his own 
department. His aloofness was monumental. He had 
a habit — entirely his own — of drafting his dispatches 
at the Cabinet table whilst discussions were proceed- 
ing on home affairs. This lofty detachment he carried 
into the War Cabinets. In the discussion bearing on 
the most effective methods of prosecuting the War he 
had little to say or suggest. Having been forced to 
declare the War from which he had failed to save his 
country, it was for others to direct it and find the means 
for its successful prosecution. But here was a question 
pre-eminently affecting his department. Should any 
peace approaches be encouraged or entertained ? 
The initiative had been taken by one of his 
immediate predecessors at the Foreign Office — Lord 
Lansdowne. 

In spite of the confidence manifested by the military 
authorities, Lord Grey expressed his misgivings as to 
the effect of the submarine campaign, and said he 
thought it had not been mastered and for the present 
seemed to be getting more and more beyond our 
control. He went so far as to say, however, that as 
long as the military and naval authorities considered 
that the position of the Allies was likely to improve, 
even though it might not result in the ultimate and 
complete defeat of Germany, it would be premature 
to make peace. Should it at any future time become 



WAR MEMOIRS 


876 

evident that the Allies could not improve further their 
position, they should proceed forthwith to make the 
best peace terms they could. 

Ever non-committal and hesitating, he neither 
associated himself with Lord Lansdowne nor did he 
dissent from his views. He neither approved nor 
disapproved. Whatever the decision or the event 
his intervention would conform to either. Was he in 
favour of the Lansdowne thesis ? If it were turned 
down and its author and his supporters were taunted 
with faintheartedness, no one could fairly quote one 
sentence of unequivocal commendation from Lord 
Grey. On the other hand, if either then or later Lord 
Lansdowne’s brave memorandum were justified, 
then no one could say that Lord Grey had offered any 
hostile criticism to its purport. 

Sir William Robertson in his memorandum had 
arraigned the Foreign Secretary’s diplomacy both 
before and during the War and had ascribed to its 
feebleness most of our misfortunes. The attack 
occupied one short paragraph in Sir W. Robertson’s 
contribution. Lord Grey devoted pages to an 
explanation and defence of his failures — his failures 
to avoid war ; to keep Turkey out of the War ; to 
secure the timely help of Greece ; and to lure Bulgaria 
on to our side. He had done everything of which 
diplomacy was capable without adequate military 
support. The failure was military and not diplomatic. 
All very interesting, but having no bearing on the 
momentous issue raised by Lord Lansdowne — whether 
it was better to make peace now or to fight on in the 
hope that we might be in a better position later on to 
dictate terms. 

It is rather surprising that no constructive sugges- 
tions for peace were ever put forward by him either 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 877 

now or at any time. If he gave any thought to 
the terms of peace which he had in his mind as the end 
Only Mr an d aim of the War he never favoured his 
Balfour frames colleagues with his ideas. The only con- 
concrete peace crete proposals as to peace terms submitted 
terms to Asquith Cabinet came from another 

pen. It was shortly before the Lansdowne discussions 
that the Government for the first time had submitted 
to its judgment any categorical, concrete and com- 
prehensive scheme of a peace settlement. This was 
the document, to which reference has already been 
made, which came from the pen of Mr. Balfour, 
then First Lord of the Admiralty. It is a truly 
remarkable document and will bear careful perusal. 
The sentences in which he refuses to commit himself 
to any expression of opinion as to the possibility of 
future wars are ominous, coming from such an 
experienced statesman and so clear and penetrating 
an intellect. Apart from that it is the first time any 
statesman of the first rank committed himself to a 
written forecast of the conditions of peace. 

“The Peace Settlement in Europe 
Memorandum by Mr. Balfour 

The Prime Minister asked the Members of the 
War Committee to express their views on the peace 
settlement ; and the present paper is an 
The Balfour attempt — a very tentative and halting 
memorandum attempt — to comply with this request. 

Even the most tentative suggestions 
must, however, proceed upon some hypothesis with 
regard to the military position of the combatants at 
the end of the War. What this will be no human 
being can foresee with any assurance. But inasmuch 



WAR MEMOIRS 


878 


as it is convenient to proceed upon a hypothesis 
which is clear and determinate, I shall 
assume in what follows, though merely 
' assumed for the sake of argument, that the Central 

Powers, either through defeat or ex- 
haustion, have to accept the terms imposed upon 
them by the Allies. 

Let me add this further preliminary observation. 
The number of questions which will have to be 
discussed at any Peace Conference is obviously 
very large. In what follows I desire to do no 
more than to offer some stray reflections upon the 
most important group of these questions — that 
which is concerned with the redistribution of 
population in the European area. By this limitation 
will be excluded not merely such subjects as the 
restriction of armaments, the freedom of the seas 
and the revision of international law, but also 
Heligoland, the Kiel Canal, strategic modifications 
of frontiers,* and the extra-European problems 
connected with Asia Minor and Germany’s Colonial 
Empire. 

On some of these subjects I may perhaps trouble 
the Committee at a later date. 

The principal object of the War is the attainment 


of a durable peace, and I submit that the best way 
Ship Central °f securing this is by the double method 
Powers of of diminishing the area from which the 
non-German Central Powers can draw the men and 
territory money required for a policy of aggression, 
while at the same time rendering a policy of aggres- 
sion less attractive by rearranging the map of 


* Of course such strategic modifications might involve transfers of 
populations, which could not properly be described as negligible. But 
their object would not be to acquire territory, but to increase security by 
making frontiers more defensible. 



THE EANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 879 

Europe in closer agreement with what we rather 
vaguely call ‘ the principle of nationality.’ 

The second of these methods, if successfully 
applied, would secure many objects which are 
universally desired by the Allies. It would give 
Belgium her independence, restore Alsace and 
Lorraine to France, provide some kind of home rule 
for Poland, extend the frontiers of Italy, and 
establish a Greater Serbia and a Greater Roumania 
in South-East Europe ; I should greatly like to see 
it applied in Bohemia also. To Bohemia, Germanic 
civilisation is profoundly distasteful. The Czechs 
have been waging war against it for some genera- 
tions, and waging it under grave difficulties with 
much success. Whether an independent Bohemia 
would be strong enough to hold her own, from a 
military as well as from a commercial point of view, 
against Teutonic domination — surrounded as she 
is at present entirely by German influences — I do 
not know ; but I am sure the question deserves 
very careful consideration. If the change is possible 
it should be made.* 

Now, a map of Europe so modified would not 
only carry out the second of the two methods of 
preserving peace which I have described 
A new map above, but would also help to carry out 
of Euiope the first. The resources of men and money 
on which the Central Powers could draw 
for purposes of aggressive warfare would be greatly 
diminished. Alsace-Lorraine, Austrian Poland, 
with, possibly, parts of German Poland, Transyl- 
vania, Italian Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina 


* I presume that arrangements will be made by which the frontier of 
Bohemia would, to some small extent at least, become coterminous with the 
New Poland. 



88o 


WAR MEMOIRS 


would cease to be recruiting grounds for supplying 
German or Austrian Armies ; and the men of 
military age thus withdrawn from the Central 
Armies would be added to the nations with which 
the Central Powers are now at war ; thus, as it 
were, counting two on a division. 

The populations thus transferred would, I suppose, 
be more than 20 millions. I take no account in 
this argument of the non-Italian population which 
Italy will no doubt obtain if the Allies are successful ; 
nor do I discuss the uncontested zone coveted by 
Bulgaria. If the principle of nationality be rigidly 
applied, I suppose that, without doubt, Bulgaria 
ought to have it. Whether she deserves it, and 
whether, in view of Serbian sentiment we can give 
it to her, is quite another question. 

I conceive that this general scheme is, broadly 
speaking, what public opinion in this country 
would desire to see carried out. The point on which 
there might be most difference of opinion would 
perhaps be the fate of Poland — since the fate of 
Constantinople and the Banat is already settled 
so far as the Allies can settle it. Almost 
Problem of the only thing on which Russia and 
Poland Germany seem to be agreed is that the 
status of Poland should be altered by the 
War, and that, while receiving some measure of 
autonomy, it should remain dependent upon one 
of its two great neighbours. But as to what the 
limits of the new Poland should be, and on which of 
its two great neighbours it is to be dependent, 
there is, it need hardly be said, a fundamental 
divergence of opinion between Petrograd and 
Berlin. 

Looking at the Polish question from a purely 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 88l 

British point of view, I should like to see the new 
State include not merely Russian Poland, but as 
much of Austrian and German Poland as possible. 
This, of course, is in strict accord with the two 
principles laid down earlier in the paper. But I 
should not like to see the old Kingdom of Poland 
restored. I should fear that the new Poland would 
suffer from the diseases through which the old 
Poland perished ; that it would be a theatre of 
perpetual intrigues between Germany and Russia ; 
and that its existence, so far from promoting the 
cause of European peace, would be a perpetual 
occasion of European strife. 

Moreover, even if such a Poland were capable of 
playing the part of an efficient buffer State (which 
I doubt), I am not sure that a buffer State between 
Germany and Russia would be any advantage to 
Western Europe. If Germany were relieved of all 
fear of pressure from Russia, and were at liberty 
to turn her whole strength towards developing her 
western ambitions, France and Britain might be 
the sufferers ; and I am not by any means confident 
that cutting off Russia from her western neighbours 
might not divert her interests towards the Far 
East to an extent which British statesmen could not 
view without some misgivings. The more Russia 
is made a European rather than an Asiatic Power, 
the better for everybody. 

I therefore conclude that the solution of the 
Polish question which would best suit our interests 
would be the constitution of a Poland endowed with 
a large measure of autonomy, while remaining an 
integral part of the Russian Empire — the new 
State or province to include not only all Russian 
Poland, but also Austria’s and (part at least of) 



WAR MEMOIRS 


Prussia’s share in the plunder of the ancient 
kingdom. 

Personally I should like to see the Danish portions 
of Schleswig-Holstein, filched by Prussia and 
Austria from Denmark in 1863, again 
Schleswig- restored to their former owner. But 
Holstein Denmark would hardly accept the gift 
unless it was accompanied by some form 
of territorial guarantee which she would think 
effective ; and even then the memory of Belgium 
might act as a deterrent. But the question should 
be seriously considered. I ought, parenthetically, 
to add that unfortunately the region through which 
the Kiel Canal passes is German both in language 
and sentiment. 

So far I have indicated the kind of changes which 
I should like to see attempted when peace comes to 
be discussed. But there are some projects advocated 
by those who believe in the complete victory of the 
Allies which I regard with great suspicion. Among 
these perhaps the most important are the projects 
for breaking up or reconstituting the German 
No internal Empire. If I had my way, I should rule 
interference ou t an y attempt to touch the internal 
! Germany & ff a i rs either of Germany or of Austria. 
or Austria It may be that, under the stress of defeat, 
ancient jealousies — forgotten in the hour of victory 
— will revive. South may be divided from North, 
Roman Catholic from Protestant, Wurttemberg, 
Bavaria and Saxony from Prussia, or from each 
other. A revolution may upset the Hohenzollerns, 
and a new Germany may arise on the ruins of 
militarism. 

Any or all of these things are possible, but I 
would certainly deprecate any attempt on the part 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 883 

of the victorious enemy to bring them about. One 
of the few recorded attempts to crush militarism in 
V 6 ole on’s a defeated State was Napoleon’s attempt 
failure to to destroy the Prussian Army after Jena. 
crush No attempt was ever less successful. As 
Prussia everybody knows, Napoleon’s policy com- 
pelled Prussia to contrive the military system which 
has created modern Germany. It may be — I hope 
it will be — in the power of the Allies to strip 
Germany of much of her non-German territory ; 
but, whatever be the limits of the new Germany, I 
hope no attempt will be made to control or modify 
her internal policy. The motto of the Allies should 
be c Germany for the Germans — but only Germany.’ 

This formula, however, even if it be accepted, 
does not solve the problem of Central Europe. It 
Possibility sa Y s nothin g> for example, of the future 
of German- relations between Germany and Austria. 
Austrian I should myself desire to see the Dual 
unity Monarchy maintained, shorn indeed of a 

large portion of its Slav, Italian, and Roumanian 
territories, but still essentially consisting of Austria 
and Hungary. If this were to occur, we should 
have in the future, as we have had in the past, a 
German Empire and an Austrian Empire side by 
side and probably kept in close alliance — political 
if not also economic — for purposes of mutual pro- 
tection. Other possibilities, however, have to be 
considered. The result of the War may be the 
complete break-up of the Dual Monarchy ; and if 
the Dual Monarchy breaks up, it is reasonable to 
suppose that the German portion of it would 
coalesce with the German Empire, leaving Hungary 
either isolated or dependent. Apparently such a 
change would create a great German-speaking 


VOL. 11 


w 



WAR MEMOIRS 


State more formidable than Germany before the 
War : and this may be, in fact, what would happen. 
On the other hand, it must be remembered that 
such a change would profoundly modify the position 
of Prussia. The Roman Catholics and South 
German elements would become overwhelmingly 
strong ; and if the driving force behind German 
aggression be due, as most observers think, to 
Prussian organisation and Prussian traditions, the 
change might in its ultimate effect be a defeat for 
German militarism. 

But I do not disguise from myself either that the 
dangers of such a Teutonic reorganisation are 
considerable, or that the likelihood of its occurring 
may be increased if the result of the War is to 
convince the German-speaking peoples that their 
only hope of national greatness lies in their con- 
senting to forget all causes of difference and welding 
themselves into a single powerful State. Those 
who think the future must necessarily resemble 
the past may perhaps be disposed to remind us 
that for the five centuries preceding the Bismarckian 
era the political tendencies prevailing in Germany 
have been, on the whole, centrifugal and separatist. 
They will argue that this inveterate tradition, 
interrupted though it has been for forty-five 
years by a united and triumphant Germany, 
nevertheless represents the real tendencies of the 
race ; and that to this tradition it will revert after 
a war for which Prussian policy and a Prussian 
dynasty have been responsible. 

Personally, I am inclined to doubt this con- 
clusion, plausible as it seems ; nor do I believe 
that anything which we and our Allies can 
accomplish will prevent the Germanic Powers, 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 


either united by alliance or fused into a single 
State, from remaining wealthy, populous, and 
potentially formidable. 

For this reason I do not share the fears of those 
who think that the triumph of the Slav countries 
Slav races likely to menace German predominance 
too divided, in Central Europe. When we remember 
to threaten that the Slav populations are divided by 
Europe language, religion and government ; that 
they fought each other four years ago ; that they 
are fighting each other at this very moment ; that 
the only one among them which can count as a 
Great Power is Russia ; and that Russia, according 
to most observers, is likely to be torn by 
revolutionary struggles as soon as the pressure of 
war is removed ; when (I say) we remember 
these things, we shall probably be disposed to 
think that the Germanic States will be very well 
able to take care of themselves, whatever be the 
terms of peace to which they may have to submit. 

This is a fact (if it indeed be a fact) which is 
sometimes ignored. Many of those who speculate 
about the future of Europe seem to fear that 
Germany will be so weakened by the War that 
the balance of Power will be utterly upset, and 
Britain will be left face to face with some other 
Great Power striving in its turn for universal 
dominance. I doubt this. In any case it 
Germany seems to me quite clear that, measured by 
'be Strong population, Germany — and still more, 
Germany in alliance with Austria — will 
be more than a match for France alone, however 
much we give to France, and however much we 
take from the Central States. If, therefore, Europe 
after the War is to be an armed camp, the peace 



WAR MEMOIRS 


886 

of the world will depend, as heretofore, on defensive 
alliances formed by those who desire to retain 
their possessions against those who desire to increase 
them. In that event the Entente is likely to be 
maintained. Germany may suffer a spiritual con- 
version ; Russia may break up ; France and 
Britain may be rendered powerless by labour 
troubles ; universal bankruptcy may destroy uni- 
versal armaments ; international courts may secure 
international peace ; the horrors of 1914, 1915, 
1916, and 1917 may render the very thought of 
war disgusting to all mankind. On these subjects 
it is vain to speculate. All I would for the moment 
insist on is that the greatest territorial losses which 
the Allies can or ought to inflict on the Central 
Powers will leave them powerful both for defence 
and offence. Whatever trouble Russia may give 
us in Mesopotamia, Persia, and Afghanistan, I do 
not think she will attempt the domination of 
Europe, still less succeed in securing it. 

There are two subsidiary points on which I may 
say a word before concluding — rights of way and 
Need. indemnities. If the shores of the Adriatic 
to secure are j n Italian hands, if Salonika is in 
forCentral Greek hands, how are we going to provide 
Powers the Central Powers with commercial access 
to the Mediterranean and the South ? That they 
should not be denied such access seems to be 
fairly clear. It is one thing to cut off Germany 
from her megalo-maniacal designs upon Asia 
Minor, Mesopotamia, Persia, and India ; it is 
quite another to put the commerce of Austria- 
Hungary with the Eastern Mediterranean and the 
Suez Canal at the mercy of the States which lie 
between it and the sea. There could, it seems to 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 887 

me, be no more powerful incentive to new wars. 
Some method of guaranteeing to States which have 
no convenient seaboard the free flow of commerce 
through selected channels is therefore urgently- 
required. I have had no time to give to the 
subject, but I have sometimes idly wondered 
whether the treaties which apply to navigable 
rivers flowing through different States might not 
— with the necessary modifications — be applied also 
to ports and railways. 

My last topic is war indemnities. I have, for 
the sake of argument, assumed that the success 
of the Allies is going to be complete. 
Problem of On this assumption — ought indemnities 
indemnities to be demanded ? 

Germany has never made any secret 
of her intention of beggaring her enemies and 
reducing them, if she got the power, to complete 
commercial subservience. My own inclination 
would be strongly against imitating Germany’s 
behaviour in 1871 and imposing a commercial 
treaty on my opponents for my own advantage. 
Such treaties are needlessly humiliating, even 
when they are not onerous. When they are, they 
are sure, sooner or later, to be broken. 

But there are two things I should like to do, 
and which in the interests of international morality 
I think ought to be done. I think the Central 
Powers should be made to pay for the damage 
they have done in Belgium, Northern France, and 
Serbia ; and I think they ought to surrender 
shipping equivalent in amount to that which they 
have sent to the bottom in the course of their 
submarine warfare. These are charges which it 
should be within their power to meet ; and if 



888 


WAR MEMOIRS 


within their power to meet, then certainly within 
our right to demand. Whether more can or ought 
to be exacted is a point on which I feel incompetent 
to give an opinion ; but it may be worth remember- 
ing that to take territories from the German or 
Austrian Empires free of debt, is in effect to increase 
the burdens on the States from which they are 
taken, and to relieve the burden on the States to 
which they are added. 

A. J. B. 

Oct. 4, 1916.” 

Mr. Henderson, one of the ablest and most in- 
fluential of Labour leaders, at this time publicly as 
well as in private, threw in the whole 
-M r - , weight of his great influence with or- 
views TSOn S ganised labour against “ a premature 
peace.” His words are worth quoting : — 

“ The War has gone on too long for some of the 
people of this country. It is possible that in the 
military situation of the case we may become 
war-weary, and I want to warn everyone of the 
danger of a premature peace. I am as strong 
for peace as any man or woman can be, but I 
must be satisfied that the peace we expect places 
us, above any doubt, beyond the recurrence of 
such a catastrophe. . . . We are in the War, and 
to talk about peace with all the most unscrupulous 
military forces against us would be a step to having 
the whole thing fought over again. That would 
not be ending the War by a permanent peace. 
A peace under such conditions, with Belgium and 
France, Serbia and Roumania, in the condition 
they are ! No ! We want not a dishonourable 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 889 

peace, but a lasting, permanent peace, peace based 
upon national right and national honour, and I 
say these two words in spite of the fact that one of 
my own colleagues has described them as platitudes . 53 

This speech fairly expressed the view I also took 
at the time as to the mistake of encouraging peace 
overtures until the military situation had considerably 
improved. 

Another member of the Government whose attach- 
ment to the cause of peace is above suspicion, Lord 
Robert Cecil, came to the conclusion 
Lord Robert that { n view of the military estimates 

memorandum of our Prospects 

“ A peace now could only be disastrous. At 
the best we could not hope for more than the 
status quo with a great increase in the German 
power in Eastern Europe. Moreover, this peace 
would be known by the Germans to have been 
forced upon us by their submarines, and our 
insular position would be recognised as increasing 
instead of diminishing our vulnerability. No one 
can contemplate our future ten years after a peace 
on such conditions without profound misgiving. 
I feel, therefore, that we are bound to continue 
the War . 55 

He then proceeds, in the memorandum from which 
I am quoting, to make certain practical suggestions 
as to the organisation of the nation. Lord Robert 
Cecil’s memorandum has a further interest because 
it contains a review of the military position at that 
date by a very able observer : — 

“ Whether we agree with Lord Lansdowne’s 



WAR MEMOIRS 


890 

conclusions or not, one thing is clear. Our 
situation is grave. It is certain that unless the 
utmost national effort is made it may become 
desperate, particularly in the matter of shipping. 
The position in Allied countries is even more 
serious. France is within measurable distance of 
exhaustion. The political outlook in Italy is 
menacing. Her finance is tottering. In Russia 
there is great discouragement. She has long been 
on the verge of revolution. Even her man-power 
seems coming near its limits. 

On the other hand, our enemies, though badly 
injured, are not disabled. The economic position 
of Germany may or may not be alarming. It is 
certainly not yet desperate. No certain informa- 
tion as to her supplies is available. There is no 
trustworthy ground for thinking that she is starving, 
although she may be — very possibly she is — in 
want of other necessaries, such as wool, cotton, 
lubricating oils, rubber, which will hamper and 
diminish her military strength, and there is great 
political discontent. In Austria the position is 
probably worse.” 

The Prime Minister, having, according to his wont, 
carefully gathered or received opinions amongst his 
colleagues without attempting to influence 
Mr. Asquith, them, decided ultimately that the time 

d peace S move inSt hac * not Y et arrived for peace feelers. 

No member of the Cabinet expressed his 
dissent from this conclusion. 

I have given a fairly exhaustive account of the 
Lansdowne episode because I am anxious to demon- 
strate that the Governments that conducted the War 
never lost sight of the importance of seizing any 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 


891 


favourable opportunity that might offer itself to make 
an honourable peace. The Lansdowne 
Importance of discussions have also their special value 
these peace because they are the first occasion on 
u.uu,s(^,.s w hich any of the belligerent Governments 
courageously faced the possibility that peace might 
have to be considered without victory. The Asquith 
Government examined the whole position with great 
care and came to the unanimous conclusion that to 
enter into peace negotiations with Germany before 
inflicting a complete defeat upon her armies, would 
be disastrous. The principle of President Wilson’s 
subsequent dictum in favour of peace without victory 
was thus carefully studied and emphatically repudia- 
ted in advance by the Asquith Government. What 
is more to the point, when one considers the kind of 
criticism levelled at the Government of 1917, is the 
conclusion come to by the Asquith Administration 
that without acknowledgment of defeat on the part 
of the Central Powers overtures of peace should not 
be encouraged, as they would settle none of the 
issues raised by this colossal struggle, and might and 
probably would be dangerous to the morale and 
solidarity of the Allies. 

Mr. Asquith himself gave no countenance to a 
timorous or defeatist attitude. A fortnight after my 
“ knock-out blow ” interview had been 


Mr. Asquith's published, he delivered, on 1 x th October, 
S House 1 9 1 6, a speech in the House of Commons, 

in the course of which he said : — 


“ The strain which the War imposes on ourselves 
and our Allies, the hardships which we freely admit 
it involves on some of those who are not directly 
concerned in the struggle, the upheaval of trade. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


892 

the devastation of territory, the loss of irreplaceable 
lives — this long and sombre procession of cruelty 
and suffering, lighted up as it is by deathless 
examples of heroism and chivalry, cannot be 
allowed to end in some patched-up, precarious, 
dishonouring compromise, masquerading under 
the name of Peace. No one desires to prolong for 
a single unnecessary day the tragic spectacle of 
bloodshed and destruction, but we owe it to those 
who have given their lives for us, the flower of 
our youth, the hope and promise of our future, 
that their supreme sacrifice shall not have been 
in vain. The ends of the Allies are well known ; 
they have been frequently and precisely stated. 
They are not selfish ends, they are not vindictive 
ends, but they require that there shall be adequate 
reparation for the past and adequate security for 
the future. On their achievement we in this 
country honestly believe depend the best hopes of 
humanity.” 

Here we had a fine and firm resolve expressed in 
the splendid eloquence of which Mr. Asquith was a 
master. The fact that his eldest son Mr. Raymond 
Asquith, a young man of great brilliance and promise, 
had fallen in action a few weeks before the delivery 
of this speech, gave tragic force to this passage. 

Hardly less emphatic was a statement made less 
than a fortnight later by Lord Grey. It is indeed 
somewhat curious to note that while 
Lor< * Prince Max of Baden in his “Memoirs” 

Without victory describes Germany watching through the 
late autumn of 1916 what it regarded as 
the approach of a “ trial of strength between Lloyd 
George and Lord Grey,” for and against the policy 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 893 

of the “ knock-out blow,” Lord Grey himself, speaking 
on 23rd October to a gathering at the Hotel Cecil, 
was declaring : — 

“ There must be no end to this war, no peace 
except a peace which is going to ensure that the 
nations of Europe live in the future free from that 
shadow and in the open light of freedom. For 
that we are contending. It is our determination, 
which the progress of the War but deepens, in 
common with our Allies, to continue the War till 
we have made it certain that the Allies in common 
shall have achieved the success which must, and 
ought, to be theirs, till they have secured the 
future peace of the whole continent of Europe, 
till they have made it clear that all the sacrifices 
we have made shall not have been made in vain.” 


These valiant words lend little colour to the 
rumour which for some reason or other was then 
evidently widespread, not only in this country but 
even more throughout Central Europe, that Lord 
Grey was one of those who were angling for an 
inconclusive peace. 

Can anyone doubt now, on a calm review of the 
position, that Mr. Asquith and his colleagues were 
right in the conclusion to which they 
Peril of an came ? Could we have made a peace 

l peace at t ^ iat ti me which would not have 

recognised Germany as a victor ? Could we 
have made it at any time before the final breakdown 
of Germany’s prowess ? Would Germany have agreed 
to restore the complete independence of Belgium ? 
Even if she consented to evacuate Belgium, would she 
have agreed to impose no military and commercial 
conditions which would have meant the practical 



WAR MEMOIRS 


894 

incorporation of Belgium in the sphere of German 
domination and military and trading expansion ? 
All the evidence is in the negative. The few far-seeing 
German statesmen who foresaw the perils which 
encircled the Fatherland and were anxious that peace 
should be made whilst the German military power 
was intact, never ceased to urge the German Chan- 
cellor to make an unequivocal statement about the 
full restoration of Belgium. Their efforts and urgent 
appeals were in vain right up to the final collapse. 
Prince Max of Baden, who later on became Chan- 
cellor, pointed out to the German leaders that even 
so pronounced a pacifist as Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, 
speaking in the House of Commons in the spring of 
1916, had insisted that a declaration by Germany of 
her intention to restore a complete Belgian sovereignty 
and every “ portion of it ” was a condition precedent 
of any peace settlement. That declaration never 
came. 

Would Austria have given up her conquests in 
Serbia ? Would there have been no terms imposed as 
to the fortification of the Serbian capital, which would 
have left Serbia helplessly at the mercy of Austria, and 
thus reduced her to a state of vassalage to the Austrian 
Empire ? Would no part of Serbian territory have 
been carved out to requite Czar Ferdinand’s loyal 
rapacity ? Then what about the Baltic provinces of 
Russia and Russian Poland ? Would Germany have 
given up all her marvellous conquests in Russia and 
added nothing to her territories in that quarter ? A 
suggestion that Alsace-Lorraine be restored to France 
as a condition of peace would have been greeted 
throughout the Fatherland with a Teutonic guffaw. 
France at the end of 1916 was certainly not in a 
position to ask for more than the restoration of the 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 895 

German conquests of 19x4. Even then were the 
German industrialists prepared to give up the Briey 
mines ? All the contemporary evidence points the 
other way. Apart from that there was not one chance 
in a million that peace negotiations could produce a 
settlement in the east or west satisfactory to the most 
moderate Allied statesman. 

Would real disarmament have been any part of a 
1916 peace? Would Germany have consented to 
dismantle the redoubtable military machine that had 
placed her in such a commanding position in the 
world ? And if Germany did not disarm, no other 
country could have afforded to do so. To quote 
again the words then used by a statesman whose 
name is a guarantee for pacific intentions — Lord 
Robert Cecil — “ A peace now could only be 
disastrous. At best we could not hope for more than 
the status quo with a great increase in the German 
Power in Central Europe.” The only result would 
have been a bigger Germany, better armed, confident 
that her armies were unbeatable in the field even by 
overwhelming numbers, and with a military staff 
which had learned how war under modern conditions 
could be best and most effectively conducted. 

It is often said now by men who are seeking busily 
to find fault with those who shouldered the terrible 
Why it was responsibilities of decision in the War, that 
impossible to no harm would have been done had the 
open Allies taken the initiative in approaching 

negotiations the Central Powers with a view to the 
Convocation of a Peace Conference in 1916, even if 
such a conference failed. It is urged that if Germany 
and Austria made unreasonable conditions the Allied 
populations would have firmly supported their repre- 
sentatives in rejecting these terms and would then 



WAR MEMOIRS 


896 

have continued the fight with renewed zeal and con- 
viction. Would they ? If Germany had offered to 
withdraw all her forces from Northern France and 
from Belgium, merely imposing certain conditions in 
the case of Belgium as to the uses of the ports of 
Belgium and as to the dismantlement of her frontier 
fortresses, could the Allied Governments have roused 
once more the spirit of 1914. to the pitch of facing for 
more than two years the horrible losses of the pre- 
ceding two and a half years, merely in order to restore 
Alsace-Lorraine to France or to hand back Courland 
and other conquered territories to the incompetent 
hands of Russian autocracy ? The inhabitants of these 
lands are no more Russian than they are German. 
Once the carnage of war had stopped, would Britain 
have consented to renew it and send her sons to fight 
other bloody battles like the Somme in order to 
restore the useless fortifications of Belgrade, or to 
rescue some obscure vilayet in Macedonia from the 
clutches of the Bulgarian king ? At any rate, the 
risk that nations would have accepted any humilia- 
tions inflicted upon foreigners, rather than send 
millions more of their own kinsmen to the wholesale 
slaughter of modern warfare, were too great for 
those who looked forward to the permanent triumph 
of international right, justice and peace as a result 
of the sacrifices of this generation. We should have 
met at the Congress a Germany which had victoriously 
held up Europe for two and a half years, shattered 
completely the power of three of her enemies, Russia, 
Roumania and Serbia, and was still in occupation of 
the territory of two more, and had successfully defied 
every effort to dislodge her hold on her conquests. 
The best that could be hoped for would be a com- 
pletely liberated France and Belgium, with a Germany 



THE LANSDOWNE PEACE MOVE 897 

swollen through its eastern conquests by scores of 
thousands of square miles and tens of millions of 
population. With a war so ended we should have 
been confronted with a triumphant Prussian mili- 
tarism which had demonstrated its invincibility in the 
field against overwhelming odds in numbers, material 
and wealth. Mr. Asquith and his Cabinet were em- 
phatically right in refusing to assent to the Lansdowne 
proposition. Had they done so, even if they had 
secured the adhesion of France, it could not have 
ended in a great and workable peace. France would 
not have agreed readily to make any overtures, 
because no peace possible at that time would have 
satisfied her essential conditions — the restoration of 
her lost provinces and reparation for her damaged 
towns and villages. Italy would have been fooled, 
for she had banked on Allied success for the re- 
demption of the Italian valleys in the Austrian 
Empire, and notwithstanding her heavy losses she 
would have had nothing out of any peace settlement 
which was attainable in 1916. It would have been 
said that Britain was anxious for peace and was 
prepared to sell her Allies to attain it. Such an 
impression would have had a shattering effect on 
Allied morale — east and west. The failure to make 
peace or a refusal by France to follow a peace 
initiative from Britain would have distracted and 
divided opinion in America, at the moment when 
opinion in that great country was being driven rapidly 
in our direction by the reckless and indiscriminate 
methods of the submarine campaign. 



CHAPTER XXXII 


THE MILITARY POSITION AT THE END OF 
THE 1916 CAMPAIGN 

If we were resolved to continue the War, it was vital 
that we should fight in a way that would give us a 
reasonable chance of achieving victory. But when I 
surveyed the outlook both on land and sea in the 
closing months of 1916, 1 saw the gravest grounds for 
disquietude. There was as yet little sign that the 
efforts and sacrifices we had made were leading us 
towards a victorious conclusion ; and the information 
which came either to the War Office or to the 
Admiralty was by no means reassuring. 

In October, 1916, at one of the stilted and formal 
morning interviews which the Chief of the Imperial 
Staff in the course of his duty accorded to 
A talk with me as hi s civilian chief, after he had 
Robertson ™ ex hausted a few secondary and trivial 
matters upon which he had gone through 
the form of consulting me, I probed him as to the 
position on the Somme, the terrible casualties, and the 
insignificant gains. He returned the familiar answers 
to the effect that the German losses were greater than 
ours, that the Germans were gradually being worn 
down, and their morale shaken by constant defeat and 
retreat. All the same it struck me that his answer was 
not given with the usual rigid confidence. I then asked 
him whether he would mind telling me whether he 

898 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF 1916 899 

had formed any views as to how this sanguinary 
conflict was to be brought to a successful end. For 
the time being the question took him aback, and he 
looked like a general in full dress who thought to 
himself “ This is one of those fool questions that 
ignorant civilians always fire at you, and they must 
not be encouraged.” He just mumbled something 
about “ Attrition.” I asked him whether he would 
mind giving me a memorandum on the subject. In 
due course it was written, and here is a summary 
of it : — 

The Western Front is still held to be the main 
theatre of operations for the British forces. 

As to the secondary theatres : In 
Summary of his Mesopotamia the British force is improving 
memoiandum its position, and will be in a condition to 
meet any effort the Turks can make 
against us by the time they are ready to attack. In 
Egypt there is similarly reason to expect that the 
western front against the Senussi will be safe by the end 
of the year, and arrangements complete for an advance 
on the east into the Sinai desert. At Salonika the Allied 
forces have held the Bulgarian-German Armies. 
General Milne has asked for a reinforcement of 15 
divisions and heavy artillery to achieve a victory on 
the Macedonian front, but the G.I.G.S. considers 
such a transfer from the main theatre of the Western 
Front undesirable. He thinks the only decisive 
campaign in the Balkans this winter must be on the 
Roumanian front. He regrets that the Allies have 
agreed to send reinforcements of 39,000 rifles to 
Macedonia. 

In German East Africa we hold the coast line, and 
have driven the German forces into the unhealthy 
interior. 


vol. n 


X 



WAR MEMOIRS 


9°0 

On the Western Front we are now superior to the 
Germans in numbers, in aircraft, in artillery, and 
probably to some extent also in the supply 
Position on the of ammunition. The effect of the Somme 
Western Front offensive has been to unsettle the enemy 
and weaken their morale. They are not 
actually demoralised, and we cannot expect them to 
collapse, but their prospects are worse than ours when we 
were being subjected to similar assault in 1914, as they 
have not behind them the undeveloped resources 
we had then. So our relative superiority is growing 
greater every day. But the C.I.G.S. holds that we 
must keep up the western pressure, as if the Central 
Pow r ers can transfer more of their troops to the east 
the result will be disastrous. He gives figures to show r 
the extent to which such transfers have taken place in 
the last five months. Since 1st June, the German 
forces have increased by 27! divisions, most of which 
have been added to the Eastern Front, where the 
number of battalions has risen (between 1st June and 
23rd October) by 221, while on the west it has been 
reduced by 74. 

He then goes on to show how we have increased our 
mechanical strength on the Western Front. The 
following figures show the growth of British artillery 
in France. 

1 st Jan. End Oct. 

1916. 1916. 

Field guns .. .. 1,938 3, 060 

Howitzers & heavy guns 785 1,879 

Daily income of ammu- 
nition .. .. 30,000 rds. 2io,ooords. 

Howitzers and heavy guns would number over 
2,000 by the end of the year, and the increase in 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 9OI 

machine-guns, trench mortars, etc., has been on a 
corresponding scale. But in man-power the Army 
in France is 80,000 below establishment, and should 
be reinforced. There should be a further comb-out, 
and the Home Defence Force should be reduced 
after the Navy had been induced to make more 
effective arrangements to prevent invasion. The 
greatest possible force should be available in France 
by the spring of 1917. 

The Entente Powers are suffering from bad com- 
munications and defective co-operation, apart from 
France and England. The value of the 
Superiority of Entente troops of Roumania, Belgium, 
the enemy Serbia, Portugal and Russia is low — in 
the case of Russia through lack of equip- 
ment. The enemy troops are more mobile and have a 
moral superiority. The duration of the War depends 
on the staying power of Germany’s allies. Austria 
and Turkey are growing exhausted, and Bulgaria is 
weakened by its previous wars. Germany is, however, 
fighting with undiminished vigour, and can continue 
the War for as yet an indefinite period. But her 
supplies of food would become very short in another 
six months. 

The C.I.G.S.’s conclusion was that the end of the 
War could not yet be predicted. We must be prepared 
to put our whole effort, tighten the block- 
.. , . . . ade, rally every available man, and face 

No end insight ... J ~ 

still greater strain and sacrifice, to secure 
the peace we desired. 

Sir William Robertson ended his memorandum 
with a table setting out the estimated numbers of 
troops and of still available reserves at the disposal 
respectively of the Allies and of the Central Powers. 
It is worth studying, for it contains ominous figures, 



WAR MEMOIRS 


902 


upon which I comment later on. The following is a 
summary of this table : — 




Entente Armies, 
including troops 

Reserves 



in home territory, 

still 



and excluding 
coloured troops. 

available. 


British 

3,517,000 

? 

Allied and 

French 

2,978,000 

775,°oo 

enemy 

man-power 

Russian 

4,767,000 

6,500,000 

Italian 

1,676,000 

1,250,000 


Roumanian 

590,000 

380,000 


Belgian 

128,000 

10,000 


Serbian 

1 17,000 

22,000 


Portuguese . . 

65,000 



13,838,000 

8 ,937,ooo 



Enemy Forces. 



German 

Austro- 

5,470,000 

2,000,000 


Hungarian 

2,750,000 

800,000 


Turkish 

500,000 

300,000 


Bulgarian . . 

400,000 

112,000 



9,120,000 

3,212,000 


The G.I.G.S.’s picture did not present a cheerful 
outlook. We could now hold our own against the 
Turks in Mesopotamia and Egypt — but nothing more 
just yet. At Salonika we could stand up to the 
Bulgarians if they attacked, but we were in no 
position to attack them. On the Western Front we 
were doing better. We were shaking the German 
morale. His solitary proof of it was disturbing. 
Several German divisions had fled from the western 
battlefield to the east. Why ? Not because they were 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 903 

beaten but because they felt they could hold their 
own with 74 fewer battalions. What a commentary 
on the smashing triumphs of the Somme ! 

The statistical table showed that so far as existing 
effectives and reserves at any rate were concerned, 
we had an overwhelming majority of men compared 
with the enemy powers. But our superiority in num- 
bers depended entirely on Russia and Roumania 
remaining effectively in the War. That was becoming 
increasingly problematical. Once they were elimin- 
ated the numerical superiority passed over to the 
enemy countries. Equality of numbers then would 
only be attainable by a further heavy drain on our 
man-power. It was an ominous fact that of the 
13,838,000 Allied troops, 5,357,000 were Russian and 
Roumanian ; and of the reserves 6,880,000 were 
Russian and Roumanian. Roumania, with her 
970,000, was about to disappear from the Allied 
schedule. Russia, with her 11,000,000, was to follow 
soon after. As to the general military position I have 
summarised it in a preceding chapter. It was not 
encouraging. 

The conviction was borne in upon me that a much 
more serious effort must be made to co-ordinate the 
Allied efforts in east and west ; Sir William Robert- 
son admitted the Allied weakness in that respect. In 
thinking this matter over I made up my mind to have 
a confidential talk with the Prime Minister 
A dinner about the situation, and I accordingly 

discussion invited him to come round one evening to 

dinner at my house. 

The invitation was accepted and the dinner duly 
took place. Besides Mr. Asquith there were present 
Lord Crewe, Viscount Grey, Mr. Balfour, Lord 
Curzon and, I think, Lord Lansdowne. I laid before 



WAR MEMOIRS 


904 


them my views as to the seriousness of the situation 
and as to the steps which should be taken. Mr. 
Asquith heard me sympathetically and recommended 
me to bring the matter forward for discussion at the 


next meeting of the War Committee. 

This meeting took place on 3rd November, 1916, 
and in anticipation of it, I secured from Sir William 
Further Robertson a further statement, which I 
memo, by reproduce here, setting out his views as to 

Sir William the probable end of the War : — 

Robertson 


“ 1. You tell me the War Committee wish to 
have my opinion with respect to the probable 
duration of the War, and I must at once confess 
that I feel it very difficult to express any opinion 
which can usefully be relied upon. Hindenburg is 
alleged to have stated recently that no man can 
foresee the end of the War, and I certainly cannot. 
This inability to forecast events is not peculiar to 
Difficulty of this war J but is more or less common to all 
forecasting wars. It is, in fact, greatly accentuated 
duration of i n the present war, both by the colossal 
li ' a< scale of the W ar and the conditions under 

which it is waged. Never before, for instance, 
have such large questions of international finance 
and commerce been involved. 

2. Further, we are not fighting for some 
comparatively minor object which we might hope 
to attain after giving the enemy a sound beating, 
but we are to continue the War ‘ until the military 
domination of Prussia is wholly and finally 
destroyed.’ 

3. The question you ask me is by no means 
merely, or even mainly, a military one. For 
example, I am ignorant of : — 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF igi6 905 

(a) Probable solidarity of the Allies and of 
enemy countries. 

on-Tviht aiy Social and economic conditions 

the° T problem in the enemy countries. _ 

(1 c ) Comparative staying power in 
money and commerce of the two opposing sides. 

( d ) Possible submarine developments. 

(e) The power of our Navy to keep open sea 
communications and preserve adequate mer- 
cantile marine for the supply of ourselves, our 
Allies, and the Allied Armies overseas. 

(f) Advantages and disadvantages which may 
accrue from Allied diplomacy. 

4. The staying power in men counts for very 
much, but I do not know what men we ourselves 
are capable of putting into the field or when they 
can be put there. Nor do I think, for reasons 
explained in my paper of the 26th ultimo,* that in 
the case of the other belligerents any really useful 
purpose would be served by attempting to find the 
answer to your question by the manipulation of 
figures. In the first place the figures we use are 
to a great extent guess-work. Secondly, although 
the Entente have on paper more men 
Allied than the enemy, they cannot be nearly 

weaknesses so easily liquidated in practice. Russia 
is corrupt, badly armed and administered, 
and will not improve her communications ; Italy 
refused to move men from her own country ; 
Roumania is in retreat. Finally, Germany’s in- 
terior position and complete control over the policy 
and operations of the Central Powers give her an 
advantage worth many hundreds of thousands of 
men. 


Summarised on pages 899-902. 



9°6 


WAR MEMOIRS 


5. On the Western Front we and the French 
have been steadily gaining a moral and material 
ascendency over the enemy, and as regards ourselves 
it is still within our power to put more men and 
more guns and munitions into the field. If we do 
this, and if we do not fritter away our efforts in 
non-vital theatres, and if Russia can be supplied 
with a reasonable amount of heavy artillery and 
other necessary war material, we may hope that 
in the future the pressure upon the enemy on both 
Victory on fronts will not be less severe than it has 
Western been in the past. How long we can 
unlikely till continue to apply this pressure, and when 
igi8 we may expect to derive decisive results 
from it are questions which mainly depend upon 
the factors mentioned in para. 3. It also depends 
upon the strategy of the Entente, over which my 
control is very limited. I am, therefore, quite 
unable to form any opinion as to when the end of 
the War may be, but I think we shall be well 
advised not to expect the end at any rate before the 
summer of 1918. How long it may go on after- 
wards I cannot even guess. One thing is quite 
certain, as I have many times said during the 
present year, and that is that we cannot hope for a 
conclusion in our favour unless and until we make 
full and appropriate use of all our resources. We 
have not yet taken the steps to do this 
Steps to and we ought to take them at once. I 
be taken referred to some of them in the final 
paragraph of my paper of the 26th 
ultimo, and I may add here that we must : — 

Have a full day’s work from every man and 
woman. 

Make all possible use of foreign labour. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF igi6 907 

Check present waste and extravagance in the 
national life. 

Become as self-supporting as possible. 

Clearly explain to the nation the grave nature 
of the task in front of us. 

Secure a control over the War in all its 
aspects equivalent to the contribution we are 
making towards it. (I emphasised this in 
January last, but little, if any, improvement has 
been effected.) 

W.R.R. 

C.I.G.S. 

November 3, 1916.” 

Basing myself upon this document, I made a 
statement at the War Committee, of which I give 
the following extracts from the summary contained 
in its minutes : — 

“ Mr. Lloyd George . . . read to the War 
My Committee a minute by the Chief of the 

statement Imperial General Staff dated the 3rd 
t Com- T November, 1916, regarding the probable 
mittee duration of the War. 

Mr. Lloyd George said that this was one of the 
most serious documents on the War that he had 
read. We were not getting on with the War. We 
were now at the end of the third campaign of the 
War, yet the enemy had recovered the initiative. 
He had in his occupation more territory than ever 
before, and he had still some four millions of 
reserves. At no point had the Allies achieved a 
definite clean success. . . . 

How then, Mr. Lloyd George asked, is the War 
to be brought to an end ? 55 



WAR MEMOIRS 


908 

I then summarised the facts of the Allied military 
position in terms which were subsequently embodied 
in the memorandum which appears later. 

The minute then goes on : — 

“ So far as the public was concerned, the 
responsibility for the conduct of the War attaches 
to the politicians, and more especially to the 
Cabinet Ministers who compose the War Com- 
mittee. The public will forgive anything except 
inaction and drift. He urged that the politicians 
responsible for the conduct of the War in the 
principal Allied countries, ought to meet together 
to take stock of the situation. In the first place, 
the representatives of France, Italy, and Great 
Britain should confer together. . . . 

He suggested that the first object of 
A conference th e Conference should be to insist that 

°Watnuded West should confer with East. . . . 

Mr. Lloyd George concluded by 

urging : — 

1 . A small conference composed of two 
ministers each from France, Italy, and this 
country. 

2. A military conference to take place sub- 
sequently in the East, which should be attended 
by the principal generals from the West, 
preferably Generals Robertson, Joffre, Castelnau 
and Cadorna.” 

In the discussion which followed, so the minutes 
state, a general agreement was expressed with the 
tenor of my remarks, though they were criticised by 
some members as unduly pessimistic in regard to the 
general situation of the Allies. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF 1916 909 

It was generally agreed that the offensive on the 
Somme, if continued next year, was not likely to lead 
to decisive results, and that the losses might make too 
heavy a drain on our resources, having regard to the 
results to be anticipated. We decided, therefore, 
to examine whether a decision might not be reached 
in another theatre. As a preliminary step my pro- 
posals were approved in principle, and it was left to 
Lord Grey and myself to draft a telegram to Paris 
and one to Rome with regard to the proposed 
conference in Paris. 

The War Committee agreed that before the 
meeting of the military conference at Chantilly, 
arranged for 15th November, it was 
Decision to essential that there should be consultation 
Conference between the heads of the principal Allied 
Governments, in order to take stock of 
the situation and of the broad principles of policy 
and strategy that should decide the next phase of the 
campaign and the operations next year. They 
considered that the question should be first discussed 
by the statesmen, who had the real and ultimate 
responsibility for the whole conduct of affairs, and 
that the presence of expert advisers at this stage of 
the conference would be undesirable. They regarded 
a large conference as useless and suggested that it 
should be limited to two statesmen each from this 
country, France, and Italy, the British representatives 
being the Prime Minister and myself. The difficulty 
about Russian representation appeared insuperable, 
as no one could take the place of the Emperor and 
his chief political and military advisers, who could 
not leave Russia at present. 

The War Committee further agreed that, if the 
Paris Conference arrived at important conclusions. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


910 

these should be discussed with Russia, and that this 
could probably best be done by sending representatives 
of the Allies to Russia, where they could be received 
by the Emperor, and confer with the chief persons 
who, under the Emperor, directed policy and strategy. 
Without a visit to Russia, no final agreement 
affecting both West and East could be adopted, and 
in no other way than a visit to Russia could full 
consultation and effective discussion be assured. 

It was arranged that Lord Grey and I should 
concert a telegram to Paris and Rome on these lines. 

The military conference at Chantilly, to which 
reference is made in the above quotations from the 
War Committee minutes, was one that had already 
been arranged to take place in November between 
representatives of the military staffs of the Allied 
Armies. While there would be obvious advantages 
in arranging our conference of statesmen at a time 
when we could have these military authorities 
available for consultation, it seemed no less important 
to claim priority for the political conference, since, 
as w ? as pointed out at our Committee, we were the 
authority ultimately responsible for decisions. 

At the next meeting of the War Committee, on 
7th November, it transpired that there appeared to 
Difficulties of k e some difference of opinion among 
arranging our Allies as to the proposal for a further 
conference in conference in Russia. Italy was dubious 
astui about the possibility of sending representa- 

tives to such a conference. Further, it seemed that 
the military chiefs were proposing to hold their 
meeting at Chantilly a week before the Paris con- 
ference could be held, and this I considered to be 
undesirable ; for as I pointed out to the Committee, 
there would be a tendency among the generals to 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF igi6 QI I 

commit themselves at this conference as to their 
strategical views, before the responsible heads of the 
Governments had been able to reach a decision as 
to what they felt it necessary to take in hand in the way 
of preliminary consultation with our Eastern Allies, 
and there might be difficulty subsequently in inducing 
the generals to modify or reconsider their opinions. 

A telegram was accordingly dispatched on that 
day to Rome and Paris in the following terms : — 

“ We are of opinion that the only way to secure 
effective consultation on the future conduct of the 
War ensuring the best co-operation in 
Telegram east and west and the co-ordination 
to Paris which is essential to success, is for a 
conference to be held in Russia and 
preferably at the Russian General Headquarters if 
the Emperor would allow it. 

We regard conference at Paris as preliminary 
to conferring on the spot in Russia and the main 
object at Paris should be to arrange this. To 
postpone consultation at Paris as suggested by 
Italy would involve very considerable delay. The 
Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War will, 
therefore, go to Paris on Monday in order to have 
informal conversation with M. Briand on Tuesday, 
the day which he has chosen. After this we hope 
it will be agreed to ask the Russian Government 
to fix a conference in Russia at the earliest possible 
date at which Great Britain, France and Italy 
should be represented. We consider that the 
conference to be of any use must be small in 
numbers and be in Russia. The other Allies can 
be called into conference subsequently at Paris if 
need be. 



912 


WAR MEMOIRS 


Meanwhile we urge that military conference at 
Chantilly should be postponed for a week. We 
think it would serve no useful purpose till the 
considerations which we wish to put before M. 
Briand have been examined and without these 
considerations before it the conference at Chantilly 
might be committed to conclusions that it would 
be necessary to revise.” 


The views here expressed were ultimately agreed to 
by our Allies, and the Paris conference was arranged 
Political and to ta ^ e P^ ace on Wednesday and Thursday, 
■military 15th and 1 6th November, 1916 ; but 

conferences General Joffre refused to postpone the 
in France military conference at Chantilly, and it 
was held on the same date as the Inter-Allied con- 
ference. In the event it dominated and to a large 
extent stultified the political conference. The soldiers 
successfully torpedoed our efforts to secure a joint 
examination by soldiers and statesmen from the east 
and west, of the strategy of the Allies for the campaign 
of 1917. The disastrous military offensives of that 
year were hatched at Chantilly by the generals, and 
their selfish action in precipitating momentous 
decisions without consultation was largely responsible 
for failure to avert the Russian crash. 

In preparation for this Paris conference I drafted 


a statement setting out my view of the military 
situation, and of the need for a further 


My memor- 
andum on the 
situation 


conference in Russia to co-ordinate the 
Allied efforts in east and west. This 


statement was revised and very extensively 


abridged by Mr. Asquith, and the condensed version 
of it, rendered into French, was taken by us to Paris. 
I give below a copy of this document, re-inserting, in 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF 1916 913 

italics, the principal passages in my original draft 
which were blue pencilled by Mr. Asquith from the 
memorandum as laid by him before M. Briand. The 
omissions were due not so much to disagreement about 
the accuracy of the statement, as to the Prime 
Minister’s reluctance to append his signature to a 
document which the French might regard as critical 
of the higher commands in both countries. In effect 
he took all the sting out of the document. 

“ The time has come for the Allies, in their 
innermost counsels, to look the facts of the situation 
in the face. The war environment is always 
peopled with illusions, many of them deliberately 
fostered in order to keep up the spirit of the 
combatants, many others created by the electric 
atmosphere engendered by all great wars. 

We are at the turning-point of the campaign. 
Upon the decisions we take now will depend the ultimate 
issue. In 1914-15-16 we could afford to blunder without 
throwing away the chance of final victory . If we take 
the wrong turning in 79/7, I do not believe that our 
fortunes can be retrieved. The situation is undoubtedly 
grave. 

We are approaching the end of the third cam- 
paign. After months of hard fighting we have 
made no appreciable impression on the 
strongholds of our enemies. On land 

e ou 00 t ^ e y a p their conquests, with hardly 

any diminution in the area of the con- 
quered territories. At sea they are more formid- 
able and destructive than they have ever been 
since the commencement of the War. On land 
they have recovered the initiative which some 
months ago they lost. Our new ally, Roumania, 



WAR MEMOIRS 


9H 

whose irruption into the field on our side was 
confidently predicted by one ofi the highest military 
authorities to mark the end of Austria, is now 
fighting for very life on her own soil, and is barely 
holding her own with the help ofi Russia. Nearly go per 
cent, ofi the army with which she entered the field has 
already been put out of action. She has been deprived 
of hundreds of square miles ofi her territory and the 
German forces are within 20 miles of the richest 
oil wells in Europe. 

At sea, the British, Allied and neutral shipping, 
on which depends not merely the active co- 
operation of England in the alliance, but the very 
life of the English people, its food, its munitions, 
and those of its Allies, is being destroyed at an 
alarmingly increasing rate. 

On land, what is the prospect ? We were con- 
fidently assured in February, 1915, by a high military 
authority * that in a few months' time the Germanic 
federation would have exhausted its reserves. This is the 
end of 1916. The Germans since June have added 
twenty-seven new formations to their gigantic armies ; 
this week they have added another. Their army has increased 
since June by 300,000, and our military advisers, after 
careful investigation of the facts, now inform us that 
the reserves of man-power available for Germany and 
her allies exceed 3,000,000 men, without reckoning the 
additional 1,000,000 of young men who march every 
year into military age. 

As to the blockade, Germany will be saved from 
famine, and will even be able to make headway 
against every difficulty, so far as its most essential 
war needs are concerned, if it succeeded in securing 
the Roumanian cornfields. On the Somme, the 

* Lord Kitchener. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF 1916 915 

Allies have achieved a succession of brilliant 
victories, but what has been the result of 
Aims of the these operations ? What were the results 
nfbisive which the Somme offensive was designed 
to provide ? 

1. To draw closer the bonds of the Franco- 
British Alliance. That has been achieved beyond 
all doubt. 

2. To raise the siege of Verdun. We have 
succeeded there. 

3. To break through the German lines and 
roll the enemy back to the Meuse. Here we 
were not successful. 

ja. The capture of some important strategic position 
then held by the enemy and the occupation of which by 
the Allies would have placed him at a serious dis- 
advantage in the next push — something comparable to 
what the capture of Verdun would have been for the 
Germans. That object has failed. 

4. To divert great forces from the Eastern 
Front so as to enable the Russian offensive on 
that front to succeed. The movement of enemy 
troops has been the other way. Since the Somme 
offensive began , nineteen divisions have left the West 
for the East, and as a result , the Russian offensive, 
which started so brilliantly in the spring, and 
from which so much was hoped, has been 
stopped, and has given place to complete 
immobility. 

Another object has been recently added to the occupation 
of such a number of German divisions as to make it 
impossible for the Germans to concentrate such forces on 
Roumania as would crush that country . That event is 


VOL. II 


Y 



WAR MEMOIRS 


still doubtful. All we know is that Germany has as 
many troops and guns there as the difficult terrain will 
permit. 

The most brilliant success scored by the Allies 
this year has been the recapture of the Verdun 
forts by a single coup de main, without 
great losses to the assailants. This is a 
itruuH f eat G f ar ms, the planning and execution 
of which displayed the highest qualities 
of generalship. In barely fifteen days the French 
Army completely wiped out the results of the grim 
and costly German attacks, which have gone on 
for eight months. In consequence, the western 
line is a little more favourable to the Allies than 
it was at the end of 1915. If anyone this time last 
year had ventured to predict the actual position to-day he 
would have been denounced as a morbid and malignant 
pessimist. 

We must now take such measures as will prevent the 
situation next year from being only a repetition, if not an 
aggravation, of the present situation. Time is no longer 
in our favour. 

The outstanding features of the conduct of the War 
which give me the greatest concern as to the future are 
twofold : — 

1. That in the main decisions taken during the 
last three campaigns every military estimate of what 
q ut could be accomplished with the resources at our 
blunders disposal has not only been mistaken, but con- 
°f spicuously falsified by events, 

strategy 2 77^ same mistakes are repeated 

time after time without any reference to the disastrous 
experience gained by the failure of the preceding ones. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 917 

Let us take the campaign of igiy as an example . 
This campaign was ruined by two obsessions . 

The first was that the Geimans intended a great attack 
on the Western Front . 

As a matter of fact their great attack was on the East 
and South-East . 

The second was that by frontal attack , backed up by 
such artillery preparation as the Allies were then capable 
of their forces would break through the German lines . 
This mistake was committed at Neuve Chapelle , repeated 
at Artois 9 Festubert, Loos , and Champagne . When the 
attack failed to accomplish its full purpose 3 it was always 
thought to be due to the absence of something which could 
easily be supplied if a second attack of the same kind 
were made . Then when the second failed \ it was said 
that it came very near success , and that a few more guns 
or more divisions of infantry would have ensured complete 
triumph . 

The failure to conceive what was possible and what 
was not under present conditions of warfare was responsible 
for the failure of the experiments , which were repeated 
each time with greater forces , and consequently ended each 
time in enormously greater losses. Still the same old 
obsession has taken a firmer grip than ever of the military 
brain . 

There is no fundamental difference in the character of 
any of these attacks. There is no essentially novel form 
of strategy or attack introduced . 

The nearest approach to a new resource or device has 
been the employment of the tanks , and that came from 
entirely non-military sources. 

Another example of the failure to estimate the real 
obstacles in the path of victory was the Dardanelles. The 
military attack on Gallipoli was entirely conceived and 
planned by soldiers , and the greatest soldier amongst them 



WAR MEMOIRS 


9 l8 


told me shortly before the attack that Gallipoli would be 

carried with the forces then at the General's command 

with losses not exceeding 5,000 . How lament - 

^ , 77 ably the military diagnosis failed is now a 

Datdanelles r r • * t * • / j • 

matter of history , but in each succeeding attack 

there was the same under-estimate of obstacles , 

the same conviction that we could butt through by throwing 

great masses of men and guns on the enemy lines as 

though we were fighting in the eighteenth century and 

not in the twentieth . 

I hold in the history of igig the case of Serbia to be 
the most unpardonable and \ I fear , the most irreparable of 
all the Allied failures . We realise now 

Serbia ^ ° W ^ m P 0riani ^ W0S f 0T US to block the 

German road to the east . We could have 
cut off their supplies . We should have given 

the German people the sense of being hemmed in , and 
what would have been more destructive to their morale 
than the consciousness of that fact? We could have won 
Bulgaria and organised a great Balkanic Federation with 
a reserve of 2fi00fi00 of fighting men , which we could 
have gradually equipped and made formidable armies out 
of for attacking the Germanic Powers on their southern 
flank . We could have encircled the Powers in a ring of 

flame . Turkey , with very little ammunition and hardly 

any power to manufacture it , would soon have collapsed 
from sheer exhaustion . This could have been accomplished 
by the timely occupation of the Vardar Valley with half 
the forces which are now in Salonika , and a third of the 
men who fell in fruitless and fatuous attacks on German 
barbed-wire entanglements in the Western campaigns of 
igig* Instead of this> what has happened? The 
German road to the east is open from Belgrade to 
Baghdad ; she is supplied with corn, cotton ? coffee > tea> 
copper 5 and \ what is still more important , with first-class 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF igi6 919 

fighting men . These facts have given her people new hope . 
Bulgaria is equipped ', Turkey is reorganised ; Greece is 
overawed with a third of her people hostile to the Allies ; 
Seibia is destroyed ; Roumania is fighting for her life . 
An attempt was made to occupy the Vardar Valley in 
November , 1915. We realised at last how vital it was 
to seize the bridge to the east. But it was then too late. 
The Balkans , which might have been an asset, are now 
a heavy burden. 

In 1916 we have repeated in the case of Roumania the 
fatal error of 1915 in the case of Serbia . The volcanic 
energy which Russia has displayed in 
Roumania re ^ ev ^ n S the blunder made may yet redeem the 
situation. Nevertheless, it was a blunder of 
the most inexplicable character. What are 
the facts ? We all knew exactly what the Roumanian 
equipment consisted of. We knew that the Roumanian 
Army had no heavy guns, and that her supply of ammunition 
even for field-guns was quite unequal to the stress of 
a sustained attack or defence. As long as the Austrian 
Armies were engaged elsewhere Roumania might be all 
right ; but our military advisers must have known that 
if the Germans chose to withdraw their forces from the 
attack on Verdun and send a few of their reserve divisions 
to Roumania , Roumanian guns and ammunition were quite 
unequal to facing such a concentration. This, however, 
does not seem to have been foreseen by any of the advisers 
of the Allies ; at least, no one seems to have made any 
provision against this contingency. Either no Government 
contemplated it as possible, or each Government thought it 
was the business of the other to make plans for meeting 
that eventuality. It was only after the German attack 
had developed that the Allies improvised hurried ex- 
peditions to rescue Roumania from her doom. It is no 
exaggeration to say that Roumania may be the turning - 



WAR MEMOIRS 


point of the campaign . If the Germans fail there it will 
be the greatest disaster inflicted upon them . Afterwards 
it will only be a question of time . But should Germany 
succeed I hesitate to think what the effect will be on the 
fortunes of the campaign . Eight hundred thousand men 
who constitute excellent fighting material if well equipped 
will have been thrown away* The Germans' stores, 
much depleted, will be stocked with great quantities of 
oil and corn , which will place the Central Powers above 
any anxiety in these two important respects — and yet no 
one seems to have thought it his particular duty to prepare 
a plan which would bring such triumph to the Allies if it 
succeeded, and which would certainly avert a possible 
disaster of the first magnitude to their cause . And this 
is the third year of a campaign which has seen many 
muddles of the same sort committed through this fatal lack 
of co-operation and forethought. 

The Salonika expedition is another illustration of the 
two fatal defects which have pursued the Entente — 
tardiness and lack of co-operation. The Salonika 

Salonika ex P e ^ on launched in time would have saved 
Serbia and given us the Balkans. At best all 
that can be said for it now is that it is 
holding 250,000 Bulgarians and Turks with a force 
which is nominally at any rate double that number. Why 
so many Bulgarians should think it necessary to confront 
it I am at a loss to know. General Milne's figures show 
that the aggregate number of Allied rifles available do not 
very much exceed 100,000. The equipment in guns and 
in transport of these troops is ludicrously inadequate even 
for the modest r6le which it is supposed to play. Neither 
General Foch nor Sir Douglas Haig would ever dream of 
attacking the tiniest Somme village defended by a single 

* Sir William Robertson’s memorandum placed the Roumanian effectives 
and reserves at 970,000 men. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF igi6 92 1 

German regiment with the guns and ammunition General 
Sarrail and General Milne have at their disposal for the 
storming of over 200 miles of the strongest positions in 
Europe held by over 200,000 of the finest infantry . The 
ammunition of the two combined forces would hardly last 
out a couple of days in a Somme bombardment . j\ r o 
wonder when the Roumanians came to discover the depleted 
condition of our ammunition they concluded that we had 
not altogether kept the spirit of the bargain into which we 
had entered with them . The whole state of the Salonika 

Army gives the impression that the generals in command 
had as a matter of policy been deprived of every temptation 
to make too effective a use of the armies under their control. 
It is true that we have recently sent large reinforcements of 
men and a few batteries of heavy guns , and a further stock 
of ammunition. If they had been dispatched two months 
ago — and it is just as difficult to spare them now as it 
was then — General Sarrail might have really threatened 
the Bulgarian flank on the Monastir side and compelled 
them to withdraw perhaps a couple of divisions from the 
Roumanian Front in order to save Macedonia. Sarrail 
failed for lack of transport , lack of troops, lack of guns, 
and what the Roumanian and Russian public know now 
about this, the French and British public will know soon . 

The history of our dealings with Greece is a dreary 
picture of paralysing indecision. The Greek people are 
with us, and have indicated their sympathies 
Greece repeatedly by their votes, but the King is now , 
and always has been, the Kaiser's friend and 
the Entente's foe. He has never missed an 
opportunity of serving the former and selling the latter. 
He gave valuable information to the enemy as to our 
troops, our positions, our intentions, and our movements . 
Under our ve?y eyes, with our troops looking on, he handed 
over an important strategic position like Fort Ruppel to 



WAR MEMOIRS 


9 2 4 

Words will not win. We must have a definite plan. I 
have only heard of one. People talk of hammering, 
and of a war of attrition. The success 
Pioblem of hammering depends entirely upon 
of attrition whether you are making a greater im- 
pression on the barrier or the hammer. 
The success of a war of attrition depends upon the 
time it takes, and who can last out the longest. In 
examining the chances of success of a war of 
attrition, certain essential factors must always be 
present to the mind. 

The first is the reserve man-power of the Central 
Powers and their allies. Our General Staff places 
these reserves at three or four millions. They 
reckon in addition that each year a million young 
men become available for service. 

We shall be wise not to conclude that even these appalling 
figures exhaust the man-power of the enemy. Polish 
conscription may well give him between 500,000 and 
1,000,000 men. Prisoners, Polish and Lettish labour, 
are constantly releasing young men from essential trades. 
The German military leaders are also clearly giving a good 
deal of attention and thought to the substitution of machine 
power for man-power. They believe that owing to the 
perfection of their machinery they can reduce the numbers 
of their infantry men by several thousand in each division, 
and they have one considerable advantage over the Entente, 
that being in possession of enemy ground, they can gradually 
give way, selling land dearly as they retreat without any 
serious damage to their military position. This last point 
is illustrated by the difference between the fighting on the 
Somme and the fighting at Verdun. The French Army 
could not retreat five miles at Verdun without giving up 
something of considerable strategical value and of infinitely 
greater moral importance. They were consequently bound to 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 925 

defend every kilometere at the most appalling cost . On the 
other hand r , the Germans could give up j, 10, even 20 
kilometres on the Somme without surrendering any point 
of much strategic or moral importance * The only thing 
that matters to them is that in reconquering French or 
Russian territory their enemies should pay more for its 
capture than it cost them in its defence . 

Another factor, if we wish to measure the chances 
of a war of attrition, is the effect of the submarine 
campaign against our merchant shipping. 
Submarine The importance of this cannot be exagger- 
menace ated. Undoubtedly during the last few 
weeks the destruction of Allied and neutral 
tonnage has taken on alarming proportions, and 
unless effective steps can be taken to check it, the 
consequences may be of the most serious character 
to the armies of the Allies. Our success depends 
so much upon our maintaining the unchallenged 
supremacy of the sea that if we fail to protect our 
transports and our supplies, it will be impossible 
for Great Britain to maintain her present forces 
either in the east or the west. It will become 
equally impossible for France and Italy, Russia or 
ourselves to keep up the present supply of munitions. 
We feel confident of being able to defeat this latest 
and most pernicious development of the German 
submarine attack, but it would be idle to pretend 
that it does not fill us with serious anxiety, when 
we contemplate the prospect of a campaign lasting 
over a period of years. 

The difficulties which we have experienced in 
making payment for our purchases from abroad 
must be as present to the minds of French statesmen 

* This they did in the Spring of 1917, thereby disarranging the whole 
of the Nivelle plans. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


926 

as to ourselves. Our dependence upon America 
is growing for food, raw material and munitions. 

We are rapidly exhausting the securities 
Financial negotiable in America. If victory shone 
difficulties Q n our banners our difficulties would 
disappear. Success means credit : financiers 
never hesitate to lend to a prosperous concern : but 
business which is lumbering along amidst great 
difficulties and which is making no headway in spite of 
enormous expenditure will find the banks gradually closing 
their books against it . The fall of Roumania would 
have a serious effect on our American credit. 
On the other hand, if Roumania succeeded in 
resisting the tide of invasion then the victories of 
Verdun and our advance on the Somme would 
have their maximum effect, and the Americans 
would open their purses and send us their mer- 
chandise. The problem of finance is the problem 
of victory . . . not debatable victory , but unchallenge- 
able victory ; not victory won here countered by disaster 
there. 

Another consideration to be taken into account is the 
morale of the four nations behind the armies . As the War 
drags its weary and bloodstained path , the sacrifices and 
the sufferings must necessarily increase ; the casualties 
will become heavier , and the gloom cast by the appalling 
losses over the homes of the country will become darker 
and deeper. Then food will become scarcer and costlier , 
the burdens of taxation will be heavier . Efforts will be 
made perhaps by powerful neutrals to patch up peace on 
what would appear to be specious terms , and there is a 
real danger that large masses of people, worn out by the 
constant strain , may listen to well-intentioned but mistaken 
pacificators ; and , last of all , there is the danger , which 
one hardly likes to contemplate but which is ever present 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I gi6 927 

in our minds , of one of the four great Allies being offered 
terms which seem better than an indefinite prolongation 
of the horrors of war . Jsfo alliance has ever borne the 
strain of a protracted war without breaking . These are 
considerations which it would be well for us to bear in 
mind when we are urged to depend upon attrition as the 
sole means of bringing this terrible war to an end . 

What, then, is our suggestion ? It is that the responsible 
military and political leaders of the four great Allied 
natioris should for the first time since the commencement of 
the War meet together to discuss the situation and to 
formulate their policy or strategy . The responsible leaders 
of the Central Powers and their Allies are constantly 
meeting to discuss plans , to devise new plans, to revise 
old ones. The real military leaders of Russia never had 
five minutes’ conversation with the military leaders of the 
West . Such communications as I have read between them 
indicate a good deal of divergence in essential points of 
strategy. Take, for instance , General Alexeieff’s despatches 
on the Balkans. These are questions not merely of 
strategy, but of equipment , which have never yet been 
discussed by the Higher Commands at the various con- 
ferences. I do not regard discussion about Russia with 
General Jillinski, or even General Palitzine, as an inter- 
change of views between East and West. History will 
mock at us for our neglect to insist upon a meeting of the 
responsible military and political leaders of the various 
fronts for three whole campaigns. The whole policy of 
the Allies ought to be co-ordinated ; there ought to be a 
complete understanding between the East and West. 
Surely Generals Joffre and Robertson have something to 
say about their experiences in the West which it would be 
worth General Alexeieff’s while to hear. On the other 
hand, General Alexeieff must have had a good deal of 
experience and must have learned many lessons which it 



WAR MEMOIRS 


928 

would be valuable for his Western colleages to hear 
something of. There is no other business which would 
have been conducted for three years without some sort of 
interchange of opinions between the men that matter in 
the direction of affairs. If a conference is decided upon , 
it would be a farce to send anyone there except the men 
who matter; the men who represent France, Russia, 
Italy, and Britain must not merely be men of the highest 
capacity, they must also be men whose decisions could 
practically be accepted, not because they have been tied 
down by their instructions and therefore cannot assent to 
anything which their colleagues or superiors had not 
already given previous assent to, but accepted because of 
the high positions which the representatives hold. 

What, then, is our proposition ? We have shown 
above all the importance of the role played in the 
present war by Roumania and the Balkan 
F inthe lltWS countr * es - We have shown that the 
Balkans conquest of Roumania would furnish the 
enemy with very considerable resources 
of man-power, and would be an incalculable aid 
to the re-establishment of their economic equili- 
brium. On the other hand, we have shown that 
the elimination of Bulgaria would complete the 
encirclement of the Central Empires, would isolate 
Turkey, which would then be compelled to die of 
exhaustion, and would bring the Entente Powers 
markedly nearer to final victory. 

Although these advantages are so evident that 
they justify the greatest efforts for the achievement, 
we do not hide from ourselves the considerable diffi- 
culties to be anticipated. Our military advisers have 
more than once explained to our Government and to 
the French Government how difficult and uncertain 
every operation must be that is based on Salonika. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 929 

Our proposition is that the statesmen and 
generals of the great Western Powers should confer 
with the statesmen and generals of the 
Proposal for Eastern Front, taking for their programme 
In' t fie east 6 t ^ ie examination of the situation in its 
entirety, and more particularly the military 
situation in the east. The object of the conference 
must be to determine what it is possible to do on 
the Eastern Front, and what is the nature and 
importance of the help which the west ought to 
give to the east for those operations which are 
judged to be necessary. Moreover, the statesmen 
and generals of the west ought to explain clearly to 
the statesmen and generals of the east the limits 
which are imposed on our possible effort in the 
Salonika region. In Russia, since the dismissal of 
M. Sazonoff, there are only two men who can speak 
with authority ; the Emperor and General Alexeieff. 
At the present moment it is impossible for either of 
these to come to the west. That is why — and we 
insist on this point — it is of capital importance that 
generals and statesmen competent to represent the 
Western Powers with the fullest authority should 
go to Russia as promptly as possible in order to 
discuss these questions, the interest of which is vital 
for the conduct of the War.” 

A meeting of the Cabinet was held on Monday, 
13th November, and on the following morning the 
Prime Minister and I proceeded to Paris 
Our visit accompanied by Sir Maurice Hankey. He 
to Pans had arranged to have a private conversa- 
tion with M. Briand on the morning of 
15th November before the Allied Conference opened 
that afternoon, with a view to placing before him 



WAR MEMOIRS 


930 

confidentially the opinions of the British War Cabinet. 
This private meeting was fixed for the Quai D’Orsay 
at 10.30 a.m. on 15th November. When Mr. Asquith, 
Sir Maurice Hankey and I arrived we found there 
was no M. Briand. We were informed that the 
President de Conseil had been unexpectedly detained 
at a meeting of one of the Committees of the Chambre 
des Deputes to which he had been suddenly summoned, 
but that he expected to arrive soon. We waited 
for another half an hour and then came another 
message that he had found it impossible to get away, 
but that we might expect him in another quarter of 
an hour. Then Sir Maurice Hankey learnt from an 
amused official that the Chairman of this Committee 
was M. Clemenceau, and that he was 
Briand. clawed subjecting the French Premier to a fierce 
^ Tiger ” cross-examination on certain unsatisfac- 

* tory aspects and episodes in the conduct 

of the War and that M. Briand was having a very 
difficile time. We then realised that M. Briand 
was detained by circumstances over which he had not 
the least control, and that one of the circumstances 
was the redoubtable “ Tiger ” over whom no one had 
any control. 

Another three-quarters of an hour passed and M. 
Briand hurried into the room looking flustered, 
unhappy and altogether rather badly mauled. We 
learnt that he had escaped the ruthless claws of the 
great political cat this time, but with difficulty, and 
only by the exercise of every fibre and sinew of his 
renowned dexterity and suppleness. He was not, 
however, in a state of mind which would enable him 
to give cool and concentrated attention to our memo- 
randum. We felt that the conditions were not 
propitious for a calm examination of the military 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF igi6 93I 

position. The problems raised needed all the con- 
centration and composure which every member of 
that small gathering could command. 
Reception However, after an interchange of the 
memorandum usua l civilities and conventional inquiries 
Mr. Asquith explained the purpose of the 
informal meeting he had sought. He pulled out of 
his pocket the memorandum and read it, or rather 
rushed through it, without emphasis or pause. M. 
Briand, whilst preserving the pose of a courteous and 
attentive listener, was evidently too ruffled and dis- 
tracted to take in ideas at such a speed. He asked Mr. 
Asquith to leave a copy and promised to study it all 
with great care before the afternoon meeting. That 
was all, and then we shook hands and Mr. Asquith 
and I drove off to the Hotel Crillon, feeling like men 
whose proposals, to which weeks of thought and debate 
had been given, had been received with civil torpidity. 
Here was the country that had so far sustained the 
most serious damage in the War and had the enemy 
in occupation and control of its finest provinces, and 
yet there seemed no evidence of any racking pre- 
occupation on the part of its leaders with the problems 
of liberation. That was the burden of M. Clemenceau’s 
satire, and I felt that there was some justification for 
his bitterness. No man has a greater admiration for 
M. Briand’s gifts, but as a War Minister he was much 
too easy-going. My mind inevitably travelled on to 
contemplate the obvious similarity between French 
and British leadership. Both Mr. Asquith 
Asquith and M. Briand were men of rare intel- 
and Briand lectual gifts, but unfortunately they both 
lacked driving power. Once again we 
were captained by men who were distinguished 
figures on the bridge in normal weather ; skilful 



WAR MEMOIRS 


932 

navigators in ordinary storms, but not qualified for 
command in the most raging typhoon that ever swept 
the seas. France as well as Britain were both led by- 
men devoid of vigour and initiative. Yet the fortunes 
of the Alliance depended upon their leadership. 

The first session of the Inter-Allied Conference from 
which so much was hoped took place that afternoon. 

The importance of these meetings is shown 
First session by the list of those attending, which 
Conference included, for the British Government, Mr. 

Asquith and myself, accompanied by 
Lord Bertie and Sir Maurice Hankey ; for the French 
Government, M. Briand, President of the Council and 
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Admiral Lacaze, Minister 
of Marine, with M. de Margerie, Director of Political 
and Commercial Affairs at Quai d’Orsay ; for Russia, 
M. Isvolsky, Ambassador in Paris ; for Italy, Signor 
Carcano, Minister of the Treasury, Senator Tittoni, 
Minister of State, and the Marquis Salvago Raggi, 
Ambassador in Paris. 

The President of the Council (M. Briand), after 
welcoming those present, made a characteristic speech, 
eloquent but inconclusive, the minute of w-hich I 
quote verbatim. 


“ M. Briand recalled that at the moment when 
the former Conference of March, 1916, met, the 
w r hole of Europe was still suffering from 
M. Biiand’s the anguish caused by the attack on 
speech Verdun. The advance made m the last 
days of February by the German Armies 
had given rise to the keenest apprehension ; but 
the Allies on that occasion reviewed the situation 
in all its aspects, and co-ordinated their efforts, 
and as a result of that co-ordination they had been 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 933 

able to carry out an offensive which had already 
given satisfactory results, and of which one of the 
first consequences had been to relieve Verdun. 

At the same time the Russian Armies had taken 
the offensive on their side, and one of the effects of 
these operations had been to relieve the congestion 
on the Italian Front, and to allow our Allies to score 
a brilliant revenge against the Austrians. 

The results obtained, however satisfactory they 
might be, were not, strictly speaking, decisive, but 
they had at least the consequence of removing the 
initiative in the field from the Germans and trans- 
ferring it to the Allied troops. But that was not 
enough to bring victory. 

The War was about to enter upon a serious — 
one might say a decisive — phase, and the Allies 
would have to close their ranks in order to bring 
the War to a speedy end by achieving a final victory 
over their enemies, since the patience of the nations 
could not be indefinitely submitted to such an 
ordeal. 

Before discussing this problem, a question of principle 

arose : What ought to be the attitude of the Governments 

Govern- towards the General Staffs ; whatever might be 

ments, not their confidence in the General Staff- — a confidence 

army staffs, indeed fully justified — ought the Governments 

ultimately to a h an g on absolutely to them the conduct of 
responsible , 

operations r 

The French Government did not think so. It held, on 
the contrary, that it was the Governments which, since they 
bore the whole responsibility for the conduct of the War, 
should take the initiative in regard to operations, it being 
always understood that the execution of the plan adopted 
should be left to the military authorities, who had the 
means to carry it out. 



934 


WAR MEMOIRS 


If there was agreement on this point, the moment 
would seem to have come for the Governments to 
envisage the direction which it would be desirable 
to give to the War. On that very day the delegates 
of the General Staffs were studying at Chantilly the 
elements of the problem, and their labours would be 
of great service in enabling the Governments to take 
a decision in full cognisance of the circumstances. 

What struck the Premier first of all when studying 
the situation on the basis of the documents furnished 
by the military authorities and carefully checked by 
General Headquarters, was the fact that the Allies 
had altogether at their disposal effectives superior 
by at least 50 per cent, to those which the combined 
strength of the Germans, Austrians, Bulgarians and 
Turks could put against them. That was a con- 
sideration well calculated to give courage and to 
justify an absolute confidence in final victory. 

These hopes showed a still firmer foundation, 
added M. Briand, if the present fighting value of 
the armies were compared. While our troops had 
not only lost nothing of their attacking qualities, 
but on the contrary had never ceased to improve, 
as the success of our last Anglo-French offensive on 
the Somme had demonstrated, the soldiers of the 
German Army were far from possessing to-day, 
even among their officers, the same qualities as at 
the time of their formidable attack on Verdun.* 

Furthermore, the Allied situation from the point 
of view of munitions was growing stronger and 
stronger every day. 

Such considerations should not, however, be 


* A few weeks later the 50 per cent, superiority had already disappeared, 
and the mutiny in the French Army did not quite bear out M. Briand’s 
claim as to the superior £f attacking qualities ” of the Allied troops. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 935 

allowed to lull our courage to sleep, or make us lose 
sight of the great goal we had to reach. They 
should, on the contrary, stimulate our ardour, 
encourage us to intensify our efforts, and make us 
understand the great advantages which we have 
reaped from putting into the common store our 
strength and our resources. 

And now, what course of action ought we to 
adopt on all fronts ? It was on this point that it 
Combined wou ^ seem worth while to deliberate, in 
action on order to discover the swiftest solution of 
all fronts the War. The French Government con- 
essential s idered, and its opinion would doubtless 
be shared by the military authorities, that it was 
absolutely necessary to manifest an incessant activity 
on all fronts. This activity could not bring about 
a decisive result all at once, but it was indispensable 
in order to retain the initiative in the Allies’ hands. 
The offensives of the armies of General Brussiloff 
and General Lechnisky had frankly not been 
decisive, but they had enabled the Russians to take 
400,000 prisoners and disorganise the Austrian 
Army.* On its front, the Italian Army had dealt 
the Austrian Army terrible blows, which had greatly 
weakened it ; while on our front our valiant troops 
and those of our friends and Allies the English, 
had undertaken an offensive which had already 
had happy consequences which were familiar to his 
hearers. 

All these operations, without being decisive, had 
had the effect of preventing our enemies from 
continuing the tactics of which we had been the 
victims at the outbreak of war, and from dealing us 

* The greater numbers of Russian and Roumanian prisoners captured 
by the Central Powers are not mentioned. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


blows, first on one front, and then on the other. 
Since our activity had shown itself everywhere, the 
Austro-German Armies had been everywhere con- 
demned to act on the defensive. Let that lesson 
profit us and encourage us to keep on ! But what 
operations could be undertaken in winter ? The 
French Government considered, and it had made 
its view's on this subject knowm to its Allies, that it 
was in the Balkans that the most effective efforts could 
be put forth. What, in fact, was Germany doing ? 

Pressed on all sides, it was not hesitating to violate 
the rights of nations in an attempt to procure new 
reserves of men in Poland. It was said that it could 
find in this v'ay 300,000 or 400,000 men. Suppose 
these figures correct, would it not take several 
months more to train these new recruits and make 
soldiers of them ? Were we going to wait without 
doing anything until Germany and Austria were 
able to use these troops against us ? Would it not 
be much more worth while to make straight away 
an effort to stop, or at all events to render useless 
this violation of the rights of nations ? 

But what could be done ? Let us ask ourselves. 
It seemed to him indispensable to try by energetic action 
Value of a ^he Dobrudja and against Sofia to put 
Balkan Bulgaria out of action, and thereby Turkey, 
campaign That effort was not impossible, and he 
thought that Russia would be disposed 
to make it, if we could second her action by an offen- 
sive on the Salonika Front. There could not be for 
the army of the east any question of undertaking an 
operation of large scope. The narrowness of its base 
rendered this task almost impossible. But it could, 
for instance, continue its pressure on the German- 
Bulgarian Armies, and try to recapture Monastir. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF 1916 937 

The Salonika Army, although inadequately 
supplied with men, had at all events carried out 
the promise made to Roumania to immobilise the 
Bulgarian Armies on its front. Since the entrance 
of Roumania into the picture, not a single Bulgarian 
soldier had been able to leave the Salonika Front 
to take part in operations against our new Ally. 
That in itself was an appreciable result, but it was 
necessary for those operations to continue so as to free 
Roumania, and at the same time the activity of the Allied 
Armies must be intensified on all the other fronts. 

If Bulgaria and Turkey were put out of action before 
the end of the winter, public opinion in Germany and 
Austria would certainly be demoralised, and next spring 
we should be able to deal our enemies decisive blows. 

That was how the French Government saw the 
course of the War. If the Allied Governments 
were in agreement with it in deciding that it was 
the Governments which should take in hand the 
general conduct of the War, and if they shared its 
way of looking at things, he had the firm conviction 
that we should be able next year to obtain decisive 
results. 

We had come to a grave hour — maybe to a 
critical hour, if there was wobbling in the decisions 
of the Allies and a dispersal of their efforts. 

‘ I have shown you the goal that we wish to 
reach,’ said the President of the Council in con- 
clusion. ‘ It is worth our while to give it serious 
study, for if we adopt a definite solution, we shall 
have rendered a signal service to the cause which 
we support.’ ” 

It was then the turn of the British Prime Minister 
to urge upon the conference the definite proposal 



938 WAR MEMOIRS 

set forth in our memorandum. The minute of the 

Conference continues : — 

“ Mr. Asquith thanked M. Briand, in the name 
of the British Government, for the eloquent words 
Mr.Asquith had just uttered. But, added the 
urges a Prime Minister, to attain the goal which 
Russian has been indicated with such precision, 
Conference he needful for statesmen and 

generals from the Great Powers of the west to 
proceed to Russia to confer with the Russian 
statesmen and generals, to determine what it is 
possible to do on the Eastern Front, and what is the 
nature and the importance of the help which the 
Western Powers can render to Russia and Rou- 
mania, to bring to a favourable issue those 
operations which are considered necessary. This 
conference would have for its object the examining 
of the situation in its entirety, and more particularly 
the military situation in the east. It is necessary 
that this meeting should take place as soon as 
possible, and that the statesmen charged to re- 
present the Western Powers should have full 
authority to discuss the grave problems on which 
the conduct of the War depends. 

The British Prime Minister was of the opinion, 
that it was not the military authorities but rather 
the Governments which ought to undertake 
responsibility for the political and strategical 
conduct of the War, and he proposed that the 
representatives of the Powers met here to-day 
should forthwith, and without prejudice in any respect 
to the conclusion of the conference which would be held in 
Russia, enter on an engagement to submit themselves 
to the decisions of this Assembly. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF 1 916 939 

The Chief Italian Delegate thought, like M. 
Briand, that as the Governments had the respon- 
sibility of power, it was to them that the 
Italy right belonged of deciding the conduct of 
non ~ ■ , the War, but he was of opinion that no 

commi ia ,-j ec i s i on ought to be definitely fixed before 

there had been consultation with the competent 
military authorities. With this reservation, M. 
Carcano entirely associated himself with the point 
of view of the French Government. The Minister 
of the Treasury pointed out at the same time that 
he was in this expressing only a personal opinion, 
and that he did not think himself authorised to 
enter on an engagement in the name of the Royal 
Government. He would wish to refer the matter 
to the President of the Council, who had been 
unable through sickness to be present at the 
conference, but with whom the final decision 
rested. 

M. Briand pointed out that at present they 
were concerned only with an exchange of views 
between the delegates of the Allied Powers, and 
that the solutions arrived at by them did not bind 
their Governments, and were only taken ad 
referendum. It could not indeed be otherwise, 
since it was a question of summoning a conference 
in Russia, the principal theatre of war during the 
winter, to discuss these problems there and take 
the necessary decisions. 

M. Tittoni declared that the Italian Govern- 
ment had been in agreement with the French 
Government since the coming into power of M. 
Briand in considering that the Balkan theatre was 
that in which the War would reach its decision. 
But when it was a case of discussing in what manner 



WAR MEMOIRS 


940 

the Allies ought to concert their efforts to attain 
a definite result, it was evident that they would 
have to discuss in the first place among themselves 
the conditions of their joint military and financial 
co-operation. 

The President of the Council did not disagree 
with this, but he pointed out that it was necessary 
for the Governments to take into their hands the 
direction of the War. The front on which 
operations were taking place was so extended that 
it was difficult to embrace with a single glance, 
and there was no army chief who would not be tempted — 
it was human nature — to consider the front on which he 
was in command as the most important , just as each 
soldier did — hence the necessity for the Governments to be 
the arbiters of operations. Our enemies had shown 
that they would not hesitate, even at the risk of a 
sacrifice of amour propre, to keep in view only the 
end to be reached. Did they not, the moment 
that Roumania entered on the scene, give up the 
pursuit of their attack on Verdun, despite even a 
dynastic interest therein, to transfer their principal 
effort to the Balkans ? 

That example should not be lost on us. It was 
not a question of obtaining a success at one point or at 
another, but of envisaging the final result, and of co- 
ordinating our effort to obtain as soon as possible the 
ultimate victory. 

The Russian Ambassador, although without 
instructions and without special powers, undertook 
Russian to state that the proposal to hold a 
ambassador conference of the Allies in Russia would 
approves be met with the liveliest sympathy on 
conference t j ie p art Q f jyf ajesty and his Govern- 

ment. M. Isvolsky added that he personally 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF 1916 94I 

considered that it was the Governments, and not 
the Staffs, which ought to have the direction of the 
War, but that question did not arise in Russia, 
since the Emperor was at once the supreme head 
of the armies and of the Government. 

As to the question of the principal theatre of 
operations during the winter it was clear from all 
communications received from Russia that the 
Imperial Government and everyone in Russia 
were well aware of the capital importance of the 
operations in the Balkans. 

M. Briand noted with satisfaction that all the 
delegates were agreed in principle in recognising 
that the Eastern Front would be during the winter 
the principal theatre of operations. Since that 
was the case, and while leaving to the conference 
which would be held in Russia the task of deciding 
what should be done by the Russian and Rou- 
manian Governments, we could examine straight 
away to what extent these efforts could be seconded 
by the army in the east. 

Mr. Lloyd George noted with satisfaction 
that all the delegates had approved in principle 
the proposition of the British Government for 
summoning a conference in Russia to decide on 
the general conduct of the War, and that they 
were in agreement as to the necessity of adopting 
a common line of action. 

c But that is not enough,’ added Mr. Lloyd 
George. ‘We must not rest content with taking these 
decisions. We have still to see that they are 
My plan carried out. After having decided on the 
^action™^ Salonika expedition, the English and 
French Governments entrusted its execu- 
tion to persons who were not perhaps sufficiently 



WAR MEMOIRS 


942 

convinced of the importance of this front, and have 
not given sufficient attention to it to know whether 
the effectives were adequate, whether the transport 
was well organised, and in particular whether the 
artillery corresponded to the needs of the operations. 
Certain military authorities had said, it is true, 
that heavy artillery could not be utilised in this 
theatre on account of the bad state of the roads 
and of the topographical conditions ; but the 
Germans have shown us the contrary in the 
Carpathians. When Governments have taken a decision, 
they ought to see that it is carried out. 

‘ The goal towards which our efforts ought to 
be directed has been indicated with much eloquence 
by the President of the Council. It is a matter of 
encircling Germany more and more every day, 
of cutting its communications with the East, of 
hindering the formation of new armies. 

‘ To get there, we shall have to unite all our 
resources. One cannot in fact avoid the thought 
Russia must that the magnificent offensive of the 
be supplied Russian Armies, despite the valour of the 
wtih troops and the skill of the generals, has 
munitions not p er h a p S yielded all that was hoped 

for, solely because of the inadequacy of heavy 
artillery on the Eastern Front. These ar mi es 
ought then to be given the cannon and the munitions 
of which they stand in need, and that without 
waiting until the French, English and Italian 
Armies have been furnished with all the material 
that is necessary to them. We have got to help 
Russia and Roumania, not by taking from the 
surplus of our production, but by drawing if it 
must be upon what is necessary for ourselves, for 
it would be a shortsighted policy not to put these 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 943 

armies straight away into a position not to fulfil 
the task which falls upon them.’ 

Mr. Lloyd George proposed, in consequence, 
that the Assembly should adopt the following 
resolutions : — 

1. The three Governments of France, Italy 

and Great Britain undertake to participate in 
My a political and military conference 

proposals which shall be held 

in Russia as soon 

conference possible. 

in Russia Each Government will send to this 
conference, as its representatives, statesmen and 
officers of high rank, possessing full authority 
to speak in the name of their respective 
Governments. 

2. The aim of the conference will be to 
examine the political and military situation in 
all its aspects, and in particular to fix the nature 
and the importance of the military effort which 
the Allies ought to carry out in the east during 
1917. The object of the conference shall be 
at the same time to estimate the importance of 
the help which ought to be provided by France, 
Italy and Great Britain, to Russia and Rou- 
mania, in order to enable these Powers to carry 
out the operations which shall have been 
decided on. 

3. The Governments represented at the 
present conference shall enter into an engage- 
ment to furnish in the fullest possible measure 
to their Allies the full military equipment asked 
for by the conference, which will be held in 
Russia, even if this should result in a certain 
slowing down in the equipment of their own 



944 


WAR MEMOIRS 


armies, and Russia shall on its side enter into an 
engagement to conform to the decisions adopted 
by this conference. 

This last phrase does not in any way imply that 
the conference will impose certain conditions on 
Russia ; it simply means that Russia will take the 
necessary steps to enable her to make use as promptly 
as possible, and with all the desired intensity of the 
resources put at her disposal by the Allies. It turned 
out that 300 pieces of heavy artillery sent to Russia 
at the beginning of the year could not be used until 
a quite recent date through lack of artillery-men to 
serve them. 

M. Tittoni, after stating that the Italian 
delegates could only take part in these deliberations 
ad referendum, asked permission to tell the meeting 
the reflections which Mr. Lloyd George’s pro- 
position suggested to him. One could not doubt, 
said he, the good will of the Italian Government ; 
its solidarity with the Allies was whole and entire ; 
but he did not want to rest content with theoretical 
formulas, and was trying to do practical work. 
Now, it was no use hiding the fact that the realisa- 
tion of the programme advanced by the President 
of the Council and by Mr. Lloyd George would 
come crashing against difficulties independent of 
the good will of men. He had to speak freely. 

Now, for the Italian Government, one of the 
principal difficulties at the present moment was 
j ta ly the financial question, and that was one 
asks for of the reasons for the journey of the 
financial Minister of the Treasury. The question 
assistance Q f exchange was becoming almost acute, 
since, less rich than France and England, Italy 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 945 

was experiencing great difficulties in meeting its 
payments to foreign countries. Of course, the 
Italian Government was ready to make every 
possible effort, but it was necessary for its Allies 
to come to its aid as well with the help it might 
require from the financial aspect. 

So far as concerned the operations at Salonika, 
the Senator of the Kingdom of Italy could only 
express his personal opinion, this question being 
chiefly within the competence of the military 
authorities ; but he was convinced that the Italian 
Government would be ready to make the effort 
asked of it, if it had the assurance that the Russo- 
Roumanian pressure would be so powerful and 
continuous that it would be impossible for the 
Austro-Germans to withdraw troops from the 
Balkans in order to send them to one of the other 
fronts. If this condition was not fulfilled, the 
Allies would be running a great risk in weakening 
the French, English and Italian Fronts, to any 
extent, however slight. An intensification of the 
effort at Salonika would seem useless, if it were not the 
consequence and the complement of a great Russo- 
Roumanian effort. 

It should not be lost sight of that to realise this 
effort many difficulties would have to be sur- 
mounted, not only difficulties of a military order, 
but economic and financial difficulties as well. 
It would not be sufficient to send troops ; we must 
also be able to ensure their transport ; their 
artillery supplies, and their provisioning under all 
heads. The question of the reinforcement of 
the Eastern Army thus presented very great 
difficulties. 

M. Briand remarked that when the Allies 



WAR MEMOIRS 


envisaged a plan of campaign, it was, of course, 
understood to be subject to the reserve that what 
proves impossible should be abandoned, and that 
it was precisely the object of the conferences then 
being held, and of that which would take place 
in Russia to discover the steps to be taken to 
secure unity of action on all fronts, regard being 
had to the resources and the means of each of 
the Allies. 

It would, for instance, be impossible to ask 
France — which had ten departments invaded, 
M Briand had mobilised more than 6,000,000 

urges men, which had taken part in the 

pooling operations in the Dardanelles and at 
resources Salonika, and had gone at the outset to 
the aid of Serbia — it would be impossible to ask 
her for a greater effort in men. But if France were 
asked for artillery, machine-guns, munitions, and if it 
were in her power to furnish them, she would give them 
at once. France had already given a good deal of 
war material to her Allies, but she was ready to 
intensify still further her production if this was 
possible. 

The Allies ought to try and fill up the gaps 
wherever they appeared. If one country was 
embarrassed in regard to effectives, the others ought 
to come to her help ; if there was another in a 
difficult financial situation, it was their duty to 
try to give her the resources which she needed. 
In the grave circumstances through which we were 
passing, all our resources must be pooled without making 
it a question of amour propre. That was how the 
French Government, and assuredly also all the 
Allied Governments, understood the conduct of 
the War.” 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 947 

The remainder of the session was devoted to a 
consideration of the position in Greece. With regard 
to this country the discussions were 
Situation confined mainly to the question of the 
in Greece recognition of M. Venizelos’ s Government. 

A new factor, which was brought out by 
M. Briand, was that the King, in his conversations 
with M. Benazet, had made some remarkable promises. 
He had said that he was ready to withdraw his troops 
from Thessaly on condition that the territory evacuated 
was not occupied by Venizelist troops. He had also 
offered to give us the whole of the Greek material of 
war, and even to put his fleet at our disposal. M. 
Briand said that, if this offer were accepted, the Allies 
would obtain the use of 200 mountain guns, with 
1,000 rounds a gun, as well as a vast amount of other 
war material. 

Mr. Asquith pointed out that if one of the conditions 
of the King’s offer to M. Benazet was the abandon- 
ment of M. Venizelos his proposals would have to be 
rejected. He explained at considerable length the 
sympathy and respect felt in England for M. Venizelos, 
and urged that the ideal solution was the reconciliation 
of the King with M. Venizelos, and that our policy 
should be directed towards that. He also urged the 
desirability of the official recognition of the Venizelist 
Government, particularly owing to the anomalous 
position of the Venizelist troops, and the danger they 
ran of not being accorded belligerent rights. 

M. Briand did not dispute the desirability of 
reconciliation between King Constantine and M. 
Venizelos, and said that in France public opinion is as 
favourable to M. Venizelos as it is in England. Public 
opinion, however, he added, was not aware of the 
difficulties. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


948 

The general opinion of the conference was not in 
favour of the recognition of M. Venizelos at pre- 
sent. It was pointed out that, in order 
Venizelos not obtain belligerent rights, it was neces- 
tastily° gniSed sar 7 ^at the enemy, no less than the 
Allied Governments, should recognise 
M. Venizelos. 

It was generally agreed, however, that the Allies 
should not let any opportunity pass to support M. 
Venizelos and his friends, and to protect them 
wherever necessary. The friends of the Entente, as 
M. Briand said, must be the victims of their favourable 
sentiments towards the Allies. 

The question was left much where it stood, and no 
resolution was passed. M. Briand finally summed up 
the discussion as follows : — 

“ So the Allies may expect a development which 
does not seem as though it could be delayed much 
longer, and which should be of a nature to give 
them satisfaction ; but it still goes without saying 
that if the King or his Government were to adopt 
measures against M. Venizelos and his friends, 
the Allies would intervene immediately with all 
necessary vigour to defend the great Greek patriot, 
who has always shown himself favourable to their 
cause.” 

Thus ended the first day’s conference. Before our 
meeting on the afternoon of the next day, the military 
chiefs at Chantilly had completed their deliberations, 
and had agreed upon a programme which bears 
evident marks of having been settled for them in 
advance by the French Headquarters Staff, and which 
ran as follows : — 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 949 

“ General Headquarters of the 
French Armies, 

Staff Office, 1 6th November, 1916. 
The members of the Conference give their 
approval to a plan of action by the Coalition, as it 
has been defined in the memorandum 
Proposals of w hich has been submitted to them, a 
Chiefs pl an having for its object to give a 
“ decisive character to the campaigns of 
1917. They adopt, in consequence, the following 
resolutions : — 

1. 

(a) During the winter of 1916-17, the offensive 
operations now being engaged in shall be pursued 
to the full extent compatible with the climatic 
conditions on each front. 

(. b ) In order to be as much as possible in 
readiness to face every new situation, and 
especially in order to prevent the enemy from 
recapturing in any way the initiative of operations, 
the armies of the Coalition shall be ready to 
undertake joint offensives from the first fortnight 
of February, 1917, with all the means at their 
disposal. 

(c) From the time when the armies are ready 
to attack, the Commanders-in-Chief shall adapt 
their respective conduct to suit the situation of 
the moment. 

(d) If circumstances do not prevent it, the 
joint offensives carried out with all the means 
which each army can bring into play, shall be 
unloosed on all the fronts as soon as they can be 
synchronised* to dates which shall be fixed 

* It is admitted that synchronisation will be realised if there does not 
elapse, a delay of more than three weeks between the initial dates of the 
offensives released on the various fronts. 



950 


WAR MEMOIRS 


by common accord between the Commanders- 
in-Chief. 

(e) With a view to realising all accord necessary 
between these diverse hypotheses, the Com- 
manders-in- Chief shall not cease to maintain a 
close contact with each other. 

2. ON THE BALKAN FRONT 

( a ) The Coalition shall seek to put Bulgaria 
out of action as soon as possible. The desire 
of the Russian High Command is to continue 
and intensify with this object the operations in 
hand. 

(b) Against Bulgaria the Russo— Roumanian 
forces shall act from the north, and the Allied Army 
at Salonika from the south, the action of these two 
groups of forces being closely combined, so as to 
obtain a decision on one or other front of action, 
following the development of operations. 

(■ c ) The Allied Army of the East shall have its 
effectives raised as soon as possible to 23 divisions. 
This figure for effectives corresponds on the one 
hand to the number of troops which can be man- 
oeuvred and supplied with provisions in the theatre 
of operations in question, and on the other hand to 
the contingents which can be spared from the 
Western theatres of operations. With the object 
of attaining this effective force the British Govern- 
ment will raise without delay its forces to seven 
divisions, the French Government to six divisions ; 
the Italian Government, having been informed of 
the intentions definitely affirmed by the Russian 
High Command, shall be requested to raise to three 
divisions the Italian forces at Salonika. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 95I 

(, d ) The Allied Army of the East shall be carefully 
maintained at the full complement of its effectives. 

3. SECONDARY THEATRES OF OPERATIONS 

On all secondary fronts, actions aiming at the 
immobilisation of the enemy forces shall be pursued 
with means as reduced as possible, in order to 
reserve the maximum forces for the principal 
theatres. 


4. MUTUAL SUPPORT 

(a) The members of the Conference renew the 
undertaking for mutual assistance adopted by the 
Conference on 5th December, 1915, and fully 
observed by all throughout the course of the present 
year, that is to say : — 

If one of the Powers is attacked, the others shall 
come immediately to its help to the full limit of 
their resources, whether indirectly by attacks which 
the armies not assaulted by the enemy will unloose 
upon prepared zones, or directly by the dispatch of 
forces between theatres of operations linked by easy 
communications . 

(b) In readiness for this latter eventuality, 
studies of transport and of the employment of 
combined forces shall be undertaken between the 
French, English, and Italian Headquarters Staffs. 

. MAINTAINING THE EFFECTIVES OF THE SERBIAN ARMY 

The effectives of the Serbian Army shall be main- 
tained by voluntary enrolments of prisoners of 
Serbian race, in the hands of Italy and Russia, to 
the full extent and with all the precautions deter- 
mined by these two Powers. 



952 


WAR MEMOIRS 


Signed by the Representatives of the Commanders- 
in-Chief of the Allied Armies present at this Con- 
ference and designated below : — 

For Belgium : — 

General Wielemans, Chief of the General Staff 
of the Belgian Army. 

WIELEMANS. 

For Great Britain : — 

General Sir W. Robertson, Chief of the 
Imperial General Staff of the British Armies. 

W. ROBERTSON. 

General Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in- 
Chief of the British Armies in France. 

DOUGLAS HAIG. 

For Italy : — 

General Porro, Chief of the General Staff of the 
Italian Army. 

PORRO. 

For Roumania : — 

Colonel Rudeano, Chief of the Roumanian 
Military Mission at the French G.H.Q^. 

RUDEANO. 

For Russia : — 

General Palitzine, representative of HisMajesty, 
the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Troops, 
and the Chief of the Russian Military Mission. 

PALITZINE. 

For Serbia : — 

General Rachitch, delegate of the Serbian 
Army at the French G.H.Q^. 

RACHITCH. 

For France : — 

General Joffre, Commander-in-Chief of the 
French Armies. 

JOFFRE. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 953 

Accordingly, at our meeting on Thursday afternoon, 
1 6th November, the representatives of the Allied 
Governments were joined by the leading 
Second day generals (Joffre, Robertson, Haig, and 
of conference Porro), whose report formed the agenda 
for our discussion, and whose conclusions 
limited and for practical purposes defined our action. 
I extract the following passages from the minutes of 
this session. 

After M. Briand, with Mr. Asquith’s suppdrt, had 
proposed that for the moment no more' could be 
done than to approve the Chantilly resolutions ad 
referendum to the Petrograd Conference to which the 
plan of Eastern operations had been referred, I 
intervened as follows : — 

“ Mr. Lloyd George wanted to know how the 
figure of 23 Divisions was arrived at. According to 
the information supplied, there were only 19 — 7 
English, 6 French, 3 Italian, and 3 Serbian, the 
effectives in the Serbian Army amounting, accord- 
ing to the information supplied by General Milne, 
to about 36,000 rifles, which only equalled three 
divisions on the basis of the standard of the Allied 
Powers. 

General Joffre explained that there was a 
Russian Division, and that the Serbian Army was 
counted as six divisions. 

Mr. Lloyd George expressed his astonishment 
at this valuation, and pointed out that the Serb 
effectives were being reduced all the 
Salonika time. The Serbian soldiers fought with 
exaggerated a . courage which could not be praised 
highly enough, but the Serbian Army had 
no reserves, and its losses were rather high. It was 



WAR MEMOIRS 


954 

for that reason that he only reckoned there to be 
three divisions of effectives in that army. 

Admiral Lacaze recalled that 140,000 Serbians 
had been transported from Corfu to Salonika. 

General Joffre added that this figure of 23 
divisions was the maximum that the Salo nik a 
theatre of operations would permit of employ- 
ment. We could only deal with practical proposi- 
tions. Besides, to raise the effectives of the Army 
of the East to this figure would take a good deal 
more time yet, for if there were at our disposal a sufficient 
number of boats, there were still lacking the railways and 
necessary facilities to enable us to utilise a 
Transport m ore numerous army. * This meant that 
Salonika we must immediately intensify the activity 
at Salonika, and for that it would be prefer- 
able to send there one division straight away, 
rather than to send two or three in January or 
February. 

Mr. Lloyd George asked on what information 
the opinion was based that this figure of 23 divisions 
was the maximum that could be used at Salonika, 
and whether this attitude was shared by the 
generals commanding the East. 

General Joffre replied that this advice was 
the result of calculations made at General Head- 
quarters. 

General Robertson announced that the British 
Government had received a report from General 
Milne in which he declared that the possibility of utilising 
thirty divisions at Salonika could only be contemplated if 
the means of communication, the roads, and railways. 


* The British War Council decided to take steps for this purpose in 
January, 1915, but the military authorities entirely ignored the decision. 
See Vol. I, page 396. 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 955 

could be expanded, and if two new ports could be brought 
into service. 

General Joffre explained that the military 
authorities had had to base themselves on the 
existing state of affairs, because it would take not less 
than 12 or 18 months to construct the roads and railways 
needed to enable thirty divisions to manoeuvre. Replying 
to Mr. Lloyd George he said that no report had 
been received from General Sarrail.* 

M. Briand pointed out that it was by taking for 
their basis the position as it stands with its present 
possibilities that the General Staffs had been led to 
consider that 23 divisions represented the maximum 
of what could be absorbed and used this winter on 
the Salonika Front. That was not to say that they 
could not, by constructing new roads and new 
railways, use more important effectives, but that 
the General Staffs had primarily had in view the 
realisation as early as possible of the objective set 
before them — namely the conquest of Monastir, 
and along all the rest of the front a continuous 
action designed to retain the enemy forces so as to 
prevent the Bulgarians from sending troops to the 
Roumanian Front. 

General Joffre added that the means of communica- 
tion were not yet sufficient, and before being able to utilise 
the effectives that had just been spoken of, locomotives 
and waggons would have to be sent for the Greek 
railways. 

Mr. Lloyd George paid a tribute to the 
remarkable skill of the Italian engineers, especially 
over country of such a character, and wondered 


* He was Commander-in-Chief of the Salonika Expedition. Decisions 
had been arrived at without any previous consultation with, or even report 
from him. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


956 


whether the Allies could not approach the Cabinet 
at Rome to ask them for help in this task. 

Italian General Porro stated that if necessary 

engineers the Italian Government would be quite 
for Balkan ready to send engineer officers to con- 
roads struct railways in Greece. He added that 
the reports from, General Pettiti confirmed all that General 
Jofifre had said about the lack of means of communication 
and about the bad state of the roads , which were almost 
unusable. 

General Joffre explained that the roads were so 
bad that half the fighting troops were being used in main- 
taining them. 

Mr. Asquith expressed pleasure at the assurance 
given by General Porro. He considered indeed 
that Italy could not render a more important service 
than that of improving the lines of communication 
in the Balkans. 

General Joffre remarked that if the Army of 
the East had not yet reached Monastir, that was 
largely due to the difficulty of transport of men and 
materials in those regions, and indeed to the all but 
impossibility of revictualling them in certain cases. 
The first thing 'to do was to construct roads and railways : 
but it must not be lost sight of that, to the extent to 
which the army advanced, the engineers and work- 
men would have to make new railways for it. 
Progress would thus be necessarily very slow, and 
that was why the military authorities considered that not more 
than 23 divisions could be used on the Salonika Front , and 
preferred to retain the effectives that were at 
their disposal for the Western Front. 

M. Briand thought the question should be dealt 
with by stages. For the moment the concern was 
that the expeditionary corps should be able to 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 957 

realise its objective on the Monastir side, and hold 
the Bulgarian troops on its front. 

If, later on, after the construction of new railways 
and improvement of the means of communications, 
it appeared that the expeditionary corps could 
absorb new troops, the French Government, and 
no doubt also the other Governments, would be 
ready to send the necessary troops. 

/ The President of the Council pointed out, in 
passing, that the conclusions of the military con- 
ference were in agreement with the views ex- 
changed on the previous day between the delegates 
of the Powers. The conclusion of the work of the 
General Staffs confirmed the importance of in- 
tensifying operations in the east, so as to put out 
of action Bulgaria and Turkey. These conclusions 
were only adopted, it need hardly be repeated, 
ad referendum, but each group of delegates could 
forthwith inform its Government, and support at 
the Petrograd Conference the resolutions which 
had been proposed. 

The President of the Council asked the delegates 
of the Powers to register the conclusions of the 
General Staffs while waiting for the possibility of 
going to meet the Russian Government and get 
them approved there in definite form.” 

After this the Italian Representatives gave an 
interesting account of the economic and financial 
state of affairs in Italy and its connection 
Italian with the military situation. They em- 

finance phasised the vital need of imports and 

raw materials if the morale of the Italian 
army and people, which remained high, was to be 
maintained. They described the difficulty of a 



WAR MEMOIRS 


958 


country whose exports had shrunk to small dimensions, 
owing to war conditions, in paying for imports unless 
further financial assistance was forthcoming. Mr. 
Asquith, while pointing out that our own position 
was far from easy, promised to examine with the 
utmost good will any proposals the Italian Govern- 
ment could make for the improvement of the situation, 
and M. Briand gave a similar undertaking. If the 
Allies wished to be victorious, he said, it was essential 
that they should put all their resources into the 
common stock. Some had reserves of men, others 
produced a superabundance of war material, others 
again could dispose of important financial resources. 
But if the Allies established a balance of their general 
situation it would be easy for them, or at least possible, 
to fill up the gaps which might exist by one or the other. 

In regard to Poland the Conference discussed the 
text of a protest to be made by the Allied Governments 
against the creation by the Central Powers 

Poland a Kingdom of Poland. 

The text of the draft originally proposed 
was purely negative in character, merely 
consisting of a protest, on the grounds of international 
law, against the German action. Mr. Asquith pressed 
very strongly that it should not be purely negative in 
character, but should contain a reference to the 
promises made by the Grand Duke in regard to 
Poland in August, 1914. 

It will be obvious from the records I have here 


Paris 
Conference 
a farce 


produced that this conference, on which 
so much store had been set, turned out 
from the point of view of securing a 
genuine examination of the military posi- 


tion and strategy, by a gathering at which both 


soldiers and statesmen were represented, to be little 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 959 

better than a complete farce. M. Briand’s opening 
at the Wednesday afternoon session was characteristic 
of his strength and weakness — eloquent in phrase, 
inconclusive in decision — strong in statement, feeble 
in action. The Allies, he explained, were superior 
in numbers, equipment and valour to their dispirited 
foes. We must energise these superior forces of the 
Allies and promote such a co-ordination of effort as 
would overwhelm the inferior armies of the enemy. 
The only danger was that the patience of the Allied 
nations would be worn out. So we must attack on 
all sides with all our strength. Our resources were 
common, so must be the front. The Balkans were 
the point upon which this united strength should be 
concentrated in the coming months. He envisaged 
such energetic action from the Salonika base against 
Sofia as would free Roumania and put Bulgaria and 
Turkey out of action before the winter. He pointed 
the result of this enterprise with a broad brush dipped 
in radiant colours — public opinion in Germany and 
Austria would certainly be demoralised, and next 
spring we should be able to deal our enemies a 
decisive blow. And he ended up with the proposal 
of a local operation for the capture of Monastir, a 
feat achieved later on by the broken army of Serbia 
alone. He also laid it down in precise terms that 
the statesmen of the Alliance must make clear to the 
Chantilly warriors that the strategy and direction 
came from Governments and not from staffs, and that 
it was for the latter merely to carry out the instructions 
framed at the political conference. At that very 
moment M. Briand had obviously agreed in advance 
to accept General Joffre’s plans which went no further 
than Monastir ! The idea of breaking through the 
Bulgarian lines in order to extend effective aid to 



WAR MEMOIRS 


960 


Roumania was in fact abandoned in the very speech 
wherein it was advocated with resounding rhetoric. 

As for the document submitted to the second session 
by the generals, setting out their decisions at 
Chantilly, it was an intimation that the military 
leaders regarded the determination of the lines of 
the campaign for 1917 to be a matter for which they 
had the primary responsibility. To this attitude 
they adhered in spite of an elaborate appearance of 
deference to the wishes of the Government. The 


Stupidities 

0/1917 

campaign 


1917 campaign was theirs with all its 
disasters. It repeated all the bloody 
stupidities of 1915 and 1916 and ex- 
tinguished finally the morale of the 


Russian Armies, already shaken but not irretrievably 


shattered. It also temporarily broke the spirit of 


the French and Italian and British Armies. 


The proposal for the conference of responsible 
political and military leaders to be held immediately 
on Russian soil to settle the future plans of the Allies 
was completely ignored by the generals. They had 
agreed to their plans at Chantilly and they had no 
intention of allowing General Alexeieff to alter them. 
Signor Tittoni’s objection to agreeing to the meeting, 
except ad referendum to a sick Prime Minister, helped 
the generals to avoid committing themselves to a 
conference. As to Salonika they made a concession 
to civilian obtuseness. An attack was to be staged 
in that quarter at an early date, but it must be done 
as cheaply as possible. The stupid politicians must 
be deluded into the belief that it was a serious 


operation with a view to crumpling up Bulgaria — 
a preposterous piece of deception to any one who 
had made any study of the comparative strength or 
numbers, equipment and position of the combatants 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF 1916 961 

on that front. The generals knew that they had no 
Military chiefs intention of pressing the attack beyond 
ignore their Monastir. The storming of the Balkans 
Governments' they knew too well was far beyond the 
views power of the badly equipped Salonika 

Army. But the strength of the Salonika force must be 
exaggerated for civilian ears. It was, or soon would 
be, an army of 23 divisions brought up to effective 
strength. They juggled and shuffled with “ divisions ” 
when they knew they were only sham divisions. 
As a matter of fact it was the equivalent of barely 
ten divisions, and no effort was contemplated to 
increase its numbers in offensive efficacy. In the 
matter of artillery and transport it was hopelessly 
below the standard of the Western Front. When 
their attention was called to the inadequacy of the 
forces. Generals Joffre and Robertson urged that the 
transport facilities were so defective that you could 
not feed a larger number of troops, let alone carry 
the necessary ammunition for more cannon. It would 
take 12 to 18 months to improve these facilities. 
The Expeditionary Force had already been at 
Salonika for that period and these improvements had 
not been attempted. As I have previously said, a 
decision had been arrived at by the British War 
Council as far back as January, 1915, to take im- 
mediate steps to increase transport facilities between 
Salonika and Serbia. Lord Kitchener promised to 
take the matter in hand at once. Here, at the end 
of 1916, a campaign which our military advisers 
considered essential to restore our failures in South- 
Eastern Europe, could not be attempted because the 
port, rail and road transport were so inefficient that 
no effective attack could be staged. It came out 
in one of the military reports that half the troops 



WAR MEMOIRS 


were occupied not in fighting but in road repairing. 
General Milne reported that with 33 divisions the 
Bulgarian Army could be beaten. Had 
Lost the necessary 33 divisions been landed, 

fn P the U BaUtans backed by a powerful artillery, what a 
difference it would have made to the 
course of events ! Bulgaria, now getting tired of the 
War, would have been eliminated. The Bulgarian 
peasantry never cared for the side they were forced 
by their King to take. The road to Roumania 
would have been reached. The Russian Armies and 
those of the west would have joined hands. Turkey 
would have been cut off from the source of- her 
supplies. More heart and spirit would have been 
given to the depressed and disaffected Russian 
soldiers. The Revolution would have been further post- 
poned. Austria would have been enveloped on the east, 
the south and the west and would have fallen to 
pieces. 1917 might have seen the end of the War. 
What a difference that would have made to the world ! 

I left the conference feeling that after all nothing 
more would be done except to repeat the old fatuous 
tactics of hammering away with human flesh 
and sinews at the strongest fortresses of the enemy. 
If Russia and Roumania fell out, there was nothing 
more that could be done. 

When Mr. Asquith, Sir Maurice Hankey and I 
returned to the hotel and Mr. Asquith, after a short 
and perfunctory conversation, retired to 
.4 walk, with hi s usual rest before dinner, Sir Maurice 
Hankey 1 ™ 6 an< ^ ^ went f°r a walk together to talk 
matters over. 

We both felt that nothing in the way of a change 
in the conduct of the War had been accomplished 
and that in the absence of some dramatic coup 



MILITARY POSITION AT END OF I 916 963 

things would go on as before until we slid into 
inevitable catastrophe. We felt that if either Russia 
or Italy collapsed or if the submarine losses could 
not be checked, the balance of advantage in favour 
of the Allies would be lost and would pass over to 
the enemy. I was in favour of an immediate resigna- 
tion to rouse Allied opinion to the actualities of the 
position. To this Sir Maurice was opposed until some 
other means of effecting a change in the War direction 
had first been attempted. I can recall that as we 
passed the Vendome Column, Sir Maurice paused 
and said cc You ought to insist on a small War 

Committee being set up for the day-to-day 
Need for a conduct of the War, with full powers. 
small committee Jt must be independent of the Cabinet. 

It must keep in close touch with the P.M., 
but the Committee ought to be in continuous session, 
and the P.M., as Head of the Government, could not 
manage that. He has a very heavy job in looking 
after the Cabinet and attending to Parliament and 
home affairs. He is a bit tired, too, after all he has 
gone through in the last two and a half years. The 
Chairman must be a man of unimpaired energy and 
great driving power . 35 We both agreed that it was 
important that Mr. Asquith should continue to be 
Prime Minister. His great prestige and his unrivalled 
authority in the House of Commons would be assets 
which were regarded as indispensable. It was de- 
cided, therefore, that on my return to England I 
should place the proposition before the Prime 
Minister ; but that before I did so it would be best 
to sound Bonar Law, whose good will and approval 
it was essential to secure. I wired from Paris to 
Lord Beaverbrook, asking him to arrange a meeting 
between Bonar Law and myself the following evening. 
vol. n 


BB 



CHAPTER XXXIII 


THE FOOD POSITION 

By the autumn of 1916 the food position was becoming 
increasingly alarming and grave, and its handling by 
the Government was a most conspicuous 
Food shoitage example of its hesitancies. The increasing 
grows serious shortage of shipping made the food 
position doubly grave, dependent as we 
were upon ships for most of our food supplies. As 
far back as September, 1915, Lord Selborne, in a 
memorandum which he submitted to the Cabinet, 
had urged that “ we should appoint another com- 
mittee of the Cabinet to consider the whole question 
of the food supply of the nation for the next 18 
months.” In this document he had pleaded the 
value of an increased wheat production. “ It is only 
about a month,” he wrote, “ since the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer [Mr. M‘Kenna] showed an in- 
vincible repugnance to encouraging the growth of 
wheat in England by offering the farmers a guarantee. 
It is possible to increase the production of food in the 
United Kingdom by voluntary effort, but a guarantee 
of the price of wheat would be by far the most 
effective measure which the Government 
My proposal W ould take for that purpose.” On 10th 
mtimaUffort March, 1916, I raised this issue anew by 
urging on the War Committee that the 
aim we ought to keep in view in the matter of 

9 6 4 



THE FOOD POSITION 


food supplies was that this country should as far as 
possible be self-contained. To this end the Board of 
Agriculture ought to be armed with drastic powers 
to improve the production of food so as to reduce 
our dependence on imports. Every possible acre 
ought to be cultivated against the prospective ex- 
tension of the submarine campaign. I suggested the 
utilisation of machinery on a large scale. The plan, 
however, must be a national one. 

On 23rd March, 1916, I spoke again on the same 
subject in connection with the problem of the shortage 
of ships. 

In the War Committee of 31st October, 1916, the 
Prime Minister had read a letter from the Com- 
mander-in- Chief of the Grand Fleet, who 
Growth of “ expressed misgivings regarding the 

menace™ 6 danger to the cause of the Allies from 

submarine attacks on merchant shipping, 
which must be expected to increase in the spring , when the 
enemy would have more submarines f It was known that 
in this opinion the Admiralty were in complete 
agreement with the Commander-in-Chief. Lord 
Crawford was now Minister of Agriculture, and had 
circulated to the members of the Committee an 
urgent document showing the seriousness of the 
situation ; and how the outlook grew more difficult 
as time went on. He pointed out that our stocks 

of wheat and flour at that moment (30 th October ) 
amounted to four months' consumption , and that there 
was a world deficit of wheat . The probable wheat 
requirements of importing countries during the 12 months 
ending 1st September , 1917, were 72,000,000 quarters , 
while the total available supplies were estimated at 
63,000,000. 

The freight space required to carry the necessary imports 



966 WAR MEMOIRS 

of grain and feeding stuffs in the eight months, November- 
June was 8,981,000 shipping tons. The 
Outlook for potato crop, too, had failed in England, as in 
^ gloomy ^ lieS Germany and France. The forecasts indicated 
a shortage of some 1,800,000 tons ( or 24 
per cent.) as compared with 1915. Moreover, the crop 
was diseased and a shortage of seed potatoes was possible. 
Fish supplies were some 64 per cent, below normal, and 
the prices had risen from 100 to 400 per cent. The 
feeding of live stock was causing anxiety, as foodstuffs 
were costly and labour scarce. 

Lord Crawford stressed the desirability of establishing 
some central food department to supervise and co-ordinate the 
varied relations of the State with the import, 
Central Food purchase and distribution of food. The whole 

^proposed Ut fi e ^ an ^ S enera ^ prospects might be suitably 
submitted to the continuing and comprehensive 
survey of the central body. (This suggestion had now 
been before the Committee for at least seven months, 
but no advance had been made nor decision 
taken.) 

Lord Crawford ended his memorandum by the 
statement that not before August, 1917 (i.e., when the 
harvest of 1917 had been gathered in) would war 
policy be free to dissociate itself from the influence of home 
food supply. 

I supported Lord Crawford whole-heartedly in 
his efforts to obtain a decision as regards the food 
^ supply, and on 10th November I circu- 

memorandum : lated a short memorandum embodying 
A Food Con- a few concrete suggestions which I thought 
trailer proposed wou ^ materially help in solving the food 

problem. These were as follows : — 


“ That someone — who shall not be a member of 



THE FOOD POSITION 967 

the Ministry — be immediately appointed to organise 
the food supplies, including purchase, production, 
distribution and prices. 

That he should be equipped with all the necessary 
legislative, administrative and financial powers to 
^ enable him to utilise to the full the food-producing 
capacity of the United Kingdom. 

That inter alia he should direct his attention to : 

1. Securing adequate supplies of food, 
especially from home sources ; 

2. Keeping prices down ; 

3. Increasing the acreage of land in this 
country which produces cereals, potatoes, 
vegetables, and other food products ; 

4. The mobilisation and utilisation to the 
full and in the best way of 

(a) All the available mechanical appliances 
for the cultivation of the soil ; 

(1 b ) The manufacturing capacity of this 
country and the United States for the output 
of machinery for cultivation ; 

(c) The skilled agricultural labour of the 
country ; 

(d) The unskilled male and female labour 
capacity of the country for agricultural 
purposes ; 

5. The utilisation for animal fattening of the 
enormous waste of food products now consigned 
to the refuse heaps in the great towns. 

War Office, November ioth, 1916.” 

The same day (ioth November) there was a 
meeting of the War Committee, at which the question 



WAR MEMOIRS 


968 

of shipping shortage was discussed. The President 
of the Board of Trade, in the course of his statement, 
said that the Wheat Commission were at present 
unable to find 40 free vessels for the essential service 
of conveying the Australian wheat supplies. The 
conclusion that he drew was that a complete breakdown in 
shipping would come before June , 1917. 

On 13th November, the War Committee met to 
discuss the food position again. They had before 
Further them Lord Crawford’s memorandum. 
discussion in The President of the Board of Agriculture, 
WarCommittee with the clarity and suavity which he 
i3/ri/i6 always commands, urged his case. He 
gave a sketch of the immediate and prospective out- 
look as regards food. He pointed out that land was 
going out of cultivation, that labour was scarce. 
The harvest this year, he said, had been less by half a 
quarter per acre than had been anticipated, which 
was equal to a reduction from 12 to 10 weeks’ supply. 
He was apprehensive of next year’s harvest unless 
immediate steps were taken. He again urged the 
necessity for a Central Food Controlling Authority. 
I realised that if the submarine menace were not 
checked (and there seemed at that moment no ex- 
pectancy that anything could prevent it from increas- 
ing in gravity) the War as far as we were concerned 
might end in starvation for this country. It was now 
months since the proposition of a central authority 
had been put before the Government, but we seemed 
to be no nearer achieving it. I therefore pressed at 
this meeting for the appointment of a Central Author- 
ity (which I had also insisted upon in my memo- 
randum of 1 oth November) . I urged, however, that 
the President should have real authority with complete control 
subject only to the War Committee. I considered, moreover, 



THE FOOD POSITION 


969 

that the person appointed should not be a Minister of the 
Crown , as his time would largely be taken up with answering 
questions in Parliament . He need only attend the War 
Committee whenever he wanted a decision of first-class im- 
portance. Above all , I impressed upon the Committee that 
the appointment should be made at once. The actual difference 
between 10 and 12 might seem to be small , but in point of fact 
it was very serious . I therefore begged the Prime Minister to 
treat the necessity of obtaining a man to control all food 
supplies as one of immediate urgency . I said that I attached 
great importance to machinery and cultivation. I saw no 
reason why every village in the country should not be self- 
supporting^ just as it was when I was a boy . 

The President of the Board of Trade pointed out that 
nearly all the statutory powers required to carry out my 
proposals already existed in the Defence of the Realm Act, 
and that he had recently circulated to the Cabinet new 
regulations under the Act of a most drastic kind . 

In spite of these “ full powers 35 and fie drastic 
regulations / 5 the Government had not sanctioned 
the measures suggested by the Minister for Agriculture 
and no progress was being made with the increase of 
home production. 

The War Committee approved of my proposal 
for a Food Controller, in principle, subject to the 
right man being found to control the 
Committee great organisation contemplated. 

in principle There were enough provisos m this 
last paragraph to prevent any action 
being taken immediately. As a matter of fact, no 
food controller was appointed under Mr. Asquith’s 
Premiership. 

On 1 6th November, the First Sea Lord of the 
Admiralty and the Chief of the Admiralty War Staff 
circulated a note to the Cabinet stressing the 



WAR MEMOIRS 


970 

increasing gravity of the submarine danger. They 
concluded the note with the following words : — 

“ The increasing danger to our supplies from 
the enemy’s submarines has recently become so 
Further much more evident through their ruthless 
warning of attacks on neutral shipping as to make 
submarine this question need more serious recon- 
danger sideration before it is too late .” 

But no immediate decision was taken. The 
accumulation of problems requiring urgent attention 
had indeed become so great that there seemed to be 
no time for any one of them to be properly thrashed 
out and a decision to be arrived at. On 22nd 
November, the matter was still in abeyance. The 
question of shipping and food supply was reaching a 
crisis, and the President of the Board of Trade circu- 
lated a memorandum complaining that nothing had 
been decided at the Cabinet meeting on 10th Novem- 
ber, and calling attention again to the urgency of the 
matter from the point of view of tonnage. 
^Wheat^ ^ O n the same day the Wheat Commission 
Commission sent a communication (the memorandum 
of the President may have been written 
as a result of this), urging the provision of further 
tonnage for food supplies. “ So far from adding,” 
they said, “ to the reserves in the country, the ship- 
ments during the last fortnight to arrive this year 
have been nearly 200,000 quarters a week less than 
requirements, and all the information of the Com- 
mission points to the conclusion that this low rate 
of shipment will be continued until a further supply 
of tramp tonnage has arrived for loading in the 
Northern Range.” 

On the same day (22nd November) the Shipping 



THE FOOD POSITION 


Control Committee met and discussed the tonnage 
situation in relation to the serious position of the 
wheat supply in this country. 

They reported : “ The Committee are informed 

that the stocks of wheat are running down ; that we 
are living from hand to mouth. In London there 
are only two days’ supplies, and London has therefore 
to be fed by rail from other ports. In Bristol there 
are only two weeks’ supplies. . . . 

“ The Wheat Commission have purchased 700,000 
quarters in North America, but there are no steamers to 
bring the wheat to England. 

No steamers “ In normal circumstances there would 

fo Britain ^ S ^T S c coming free ’ in the Mediter- 
ranean after discharge of coal.” These 
ships, however, owing to war conditions, would not 
become available for four months, and the wheat 
position was dangerously acute. 

On 23rd November (the next day) three Ministers 
(the President of the Board of Trade, Lord Curzon, 
and the President of the Board of Agriculture) 
raised, as a matter of great urgency, our present 
and prospective critical situation in regard to grain 
supplies. They brought in support the letter from 
the Wheat Commission and the report of the Shipping 
Control Committee ; and the President of the Board 
of Agriculture pointed out that we were consuming 
200,000 quarters a week more than we were receiving ; 
that every week we were buying sufficient wheat for 15 days' 
consumption, but were unable to ship it ; and that if the 
wheat we had purchased were not brought forward it would 
diminish our power to purchase. 

It was decided that a conference should be held 
that afternoon between the Admiralty, Shipping 
Control Committee, and President of the Board of 



WAR MEMOIRS 



Trade, and that they should report next day to the 
War Committee. 

In spite of these urgent messages showing the 
critical position of our food supplies none of the plans 
suggested either by the Ministry of 
Ming fa Agriculture or myself for dealing with the 
^ ,CMto "situati 0n were put into operation during 
the lifetime of the First Coalition. A 


paralysis of will seemed to have seized the Govern- 
ment. Whatever the subject, it was impossible to 
get a move on. I am not sure that this palsy did 
not account for the unanimity of the Cabinet on the 
Question of rejecting overtures for Peace. These 
would have meant action. The pacifist element 
were easily persuaded to do nothing. The Govern- 
ment was getting into that nervous condition where 
they could neither wage war nor negotiate peace. 



CHAPTER XXXIV 


A CABINET OF INDECISION 

It is hard for me to convey an adequate picture of 
the sense of frustration and tangled impotence which 
oppressed me during those closing months 
A nightmare of 1 916. There are nightmares in which 

situation 0 ne welters amid a web of fettering strands 
and obstacles, and watches, wide-eyed, 
some doom approaching against which the strangled 
throat cannot force a sound of protest or appeal. 
The ineffectiveness and irresolution of our leadership 
in those dark weeks bred something of this nightmare 
feeling. 

There was at this time a whole series of develop- 
ments and problems which were being paltered with 
or shelved. Some of the wider issues of 
Problems that general policy I have already described. 

pdJeTwitk Firm handling of them was vital to our 
prospects of success, and I grew in- 
creasingly convinced that it was my duty as a 
responsible Minister to dispel this miasma of in- 
decision and force these matters to a definite issue, 
even at the risk of resignation from the Ministry 
and a subsequent public exposure of the ineptitude 
of the Allied war direction. I have also told of the 
way in which two or three important questions were 
dealt with, and these afford an illustration of the 
general method of procedure adopted by the 

973 



WAR MEMOIRS 


Government in an emergency. One of them was 
the neglect to take competent strong measures to 
protect our merchant ships against submarine raiders. 
The alarming rate at which our ships were being 
sunk was rapidly increasing. The October 
. sinkings had been nearly 70 per cent. 

l PP in g above those of September, and the 

Admiralty wrung their hands in despair 
when reporting fresh disasters at our meetings, but 
offered no hope that they could grapple successfully 
with the rapidly developing catastrophe. Then there 
was our failure to take steps to co-ordinate our 
strategy with our Russian Ally — a failure 
The intensified by the refusal of Sir William 

Issue™ Robertson, backed and instigated by a 
member of the War Committee — to 
represent this country at the proposed Russian 
Conference. His refusal dealt a death blow to our 
prospects of saving our Ally from collapse and 
concerting our military strategy with her. It was 
prompted by a groundless apprehension that the 
whole idea was a manoeuvre to shift him from his 
position in the War Office, and that the methods of 
the intrigue by which he had supplanted Lord 
Kitchener were to be practised in turn on himself 
— that Robertson, in fact, was to be “ kitchenered ” 
out of his position of high authority. This point of 
view was pressed upon him by a prominent Cabinet 
Minister and he was only too ready to listen. It is 
idle to vow that I had no such purpose in view, and 
that I had always urged a more authoritative touch 
between east and west than that which was re- 
presented by the appearance at our conference of 
Russian generals, for whom their own army had no 
use at home. Those who are capable of such baseness 



A CABINET OF INDECISION 975 

in a great crisis will readily believe that others 
meditated it. I was pressing on my colleagues what 
I sincerely believed was the best course in the interest 
of my country. However, Sir William Robertson 
would not go and the Prime Minister was not pre- 
pared to order him to go. At that time there was no 
military substitute of sufficient authority. Sir 
Douglas Haig could not be sent. He was so com- 
mitted by ideas and loyalty to the front for which he 
was responsible that he could hardly be expected to 
review impartially the battlefield as a whole. Sir 
Henry Wilson was thoroughly disliked and distrusted 
by the Prime Minister. So that when Sir William 
Robertson declined to undertake the mission it dealt 
a sinister blow at the whole project. 

The situation in regard to aeroplanes was another 
of the vital issues which were being muddled and 
mishandled in a fashion all too symptom- 
, . atic of the methods of the Government. At 

Aeroplanes , . . . . . . . . 

that time we had already been discussing 
for weeks the question of aeroplane 
production. There was a wasteful rivalry going on 
between the Army and Navy on the subject. Certain 
works had been captured by the Navy that ought to be 
assisting in increasing the much-needed output for 
the Army. On the Western Front the Germans had 
regained superiority, especially in attacking and 
raiding machines, and the military chiefs were 
clamouring for more aeroplanes of these types. 

The Cabinet debates on this issue were so pro- 
tracted that judgment upon it was never delivered 
during the lifetime of the Asquith Coalition. The 
question of responsibility for the manufacture of 
aeroplanes was raised by Mr. E. S. Montagu on behalf 
of the Ministry of Munitions in September, 1916. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


976 

Mr. Montagu was anxious that his Ministry should 
undertake the manufacture of all the aeroplanes 
required by both the Army and the Navy. In 
a memorandum to the Cabinet, he pointed out 
that : — 

“ The present organisation, under which the 
supply of aircraft material is the concern of two 
bodies — the War Office and the Admiralty 
Montagu’s — acting under the general supervision of 
memoran- a third — the Air Board — -and in constant 
dum and inevitable competition with a fourth 

— the Ministry of Munitions — appears to me to 
be one for which no arguments can be adduced, 
and which cannot be expected to obtain satisfactory 
results. In my opinion it is necessary at once to 
adopt one of two plans — either to set up a new 
Supply Department responsible for the entire supply 
of both Air Services, or to entrust the task of obtain- 
ing that supply to the Ministry of Munitions, which 
was created to meet a situation in regard to muni- 
tions similar to that which now appears to exist in 
regard to aircraft.” 

The Aviation Board had been set up with a view to 
co-ordinating the efforts of both Army and Navy. 

Over this Board Lord Curzon presided. 
Conflicts in He was strongly opposed to Mr. Montagu’s 
the Cabinet scheme. He admitted that : — 

“ At this moment a source of urgent anxiety to 
General Trenchard lies in the appearance on the 
German Front of two new machines better in certain 
respects than any which we now possess there. It 
is not the number of these available that concerns 
him, but the fact of their superiority.” 



A CABINET OF INDECISION 977 

But he claimed that : — 

“We are developing fresh engines and fresh 
aeroplanes which we believe will surpass the recent 
German production. But the question at issue is, 
will our machines in fact be superior and will they 
be developed in time ? ” 

He was clearly of the opinion that a new depart- 
ment should be set up which would have sole and 
complete control over the production and to a certain 
extent, the direction of all machinery for aerial 
warfare. 

When Lord Gurzon put forward his plan on these 
lines, he was in turn challenged by Mr. Balfour in a 
very caustic and amusing memorandum. To this Lord 
Gurzon replied in suitable terms. It was clear that 
if the controversy did not conduce to the provision 
of aeroplanes it at least provided excellent entertain- 
ment for those who were privileged to read these 
documents and to hear the discussions. The pleadings 
took some time. First, the statement of claim by Lord 
Curzon. Time must be given for the First Lord of 
the Admiralty to file his defence, then there was a 
rebutter and a surrebutter. An interpleader by the 
Ministry of Munitions. Then at last the case was set 
down for trial. 

I have a melancholy recollection of Cabinet Com- 
mittee discussions at this period. The aeroplane case 
was always first in the list after the usual preliminary 
reports from the Army and the Navy. Lord Craw- 
ford’s urgent memorandum on the food position should 
have come next, and shipping also would have to be 
discussed, but with such skilled protagonists as Mr. 
Balfour, Lord Curzon, and Mr. Montagu the time was 
generally occupied in thrashing out the merits and 



WAR MEMOIRS 


978 

demerits of the conflicting claims championed by 
these trained dialecticians. When in despair of con- 
ciliating the antagonistic proposals the 
Talking out Prime Minister had a habit of turning 
the issue round to the mantelpiece to see whether 
any temporary relief from his perplexities 
was indicated by the position of the hands on the clock. 
We all knew what that meant. He was making for a 
postponement of further discussion to the next meeting. 
Lord Crawford put in a despairing cry for a few 
minutes’ consideration before lunch of his anxieties 
about the food of the nation. He pointed out each 
time that the position was getting steadily worse, that 
consumption was exceeding supply at a time of the 
year when the process ought to be reversed. On the 
other hand, the Prime Minister would point out that 
it was clear from the hour which had been reached 
that there was no time left for the discussion of so grave 
a problem. There was nothing left for Lord Crawford 
but to plead for a special meeting to consider his 
difficulties. That meeting never took place in the 
lifetime of that Administration. At our next meeting 
came again the aeroplane case (part heard). At the 
last meeting ever held we all thought that a decision 
had been arrived at, but as we were dispersing, I saw 
Lord Curzon standing alongside the Prime Minister 
and challenging that fact. Mr. Asquith surrendered 
and said that the case would have to be re-argued at 
the next meeting. When the next Cabinet meeting 
took place in Downing Street it was under a different 
Government. 



CHAPTER XXXV 


THE CRISIS : DECEMBER 1916 


The upshot of our November peace discussions in the 
Cabinet had been the decision of the Government not 
to make peace until the fortunes of the Allies were 
unchallengeably better than those of the Central 
Powers. But this decision made it incumbent upon 
them to take the necessary steps to improve those 
fortunes before the patience of the Allied nations 
became exhausted. We had not only to resolve on 
the prosecution of the War to the utmost limit of our 
resources, but to take steps to utilise those 
Need, to co- resources to the best advantage, and 
efforts^ Wd es P ec i a Uy to see that the great combined 
strength of all the Allies should not be 
dissipated and wasted through lack of co-ordinated 
effort. We had also to make sure that one of the 
most powerful of the Allies should not retire out of the 
struggle in a spirit of despair. 

At the Paris Conference, M. Briand had pointed to 
the possibility of exhaustion as one of the perils of 
the situation. As a matter of fact, we were only a 
few weeks off the popular uprising in Russia against 
continuing the sacrifices of the War. Yet 
All vital i n f ace 0 f this nearing danger there was 

to departments manifest among our leaders no clearness of 
vision as to their course, no firmness of 
leadership and no promptitude or boldness of decision. 
Their disposition was to leave all vital questions to the 


VOL. II 


979 


GC 



WAR MEMOIRS 


980 

Military, Naval or Civilian Organisation in charge 
of some special war activity, and I felt in my bones 
that unless some new energy and inspiration were 
injected into the War direction, we should before long 
drift into irretrievable disaster. I therefore came 
to the conclusion that I must act without further delay. 

Having regard to the political forces in Parliament, 
I realised that it was essential that I should carry 
with me two men — Mr. Bonar Law and Sir Edward 
Carson. Standing alone I could only bring pressure 
to bear upon Parliament, and through Parliament 
upon the Government, by means of a popular agita- 
tion conducted with the support of a section of the 
Co-operation Press - This would necessarily take time, 
of Bonar Law and might have the effect of discouraging 
and Carson an d demoralising public opinion. Russia 
Vltal a few weeks later proved the danger of 

producing a sense of disillusionment in the public 
mind, even by justifiable and necessary criticism. 
It would have reacted on the Army, whose ardour had 
been temporarily damped by the Somme mud — 
even more than by the Somme carnage. It was there- 
fore essential that if a change was to be effected in the 
direction of our war activities it should be achieved with 
as little disturbance and public agitation as possible. 

Of Sir Edward Carson I had seen a good deal 
through the patriotic good offices of a friend and 
supporter of his, Sir Arthur Lee — now Lord Lee of 
Fareham. Sir Edward Carson was convinced that 
Sir Edward the War was being badly muddled. His 
Carson's few months in the Coalition Cabinet, with 
view of its Serbian collapse, its Dardanelles fiasco, 
Mr. Asquith an( ^ t ]ie bloody futilities of our strategy in 
France and Flanders had the result of deepening his 
distrust of the Prime Minister’s capacity to direct the 



THE CRISIS : DECEMBER, 1916 981 

War. His view was that all the disasters which had 
befallen the Allies could have been averted but for 
the Prime Minister’s slackness. Mr. Bonar Law on 
the other hand, having the Scotsman’s natural respect 
for brains, was a great admirer of the Prime Minister, 
and it took him many months’ experience of his 
obvious tardiness, indecision, and lack of drive in 
action to come to the conclusion that whatever Mr. 
Asquith’s mental equipment — and of that neither of 
us had any doubt — he did not possess the qualities that 
make a great War Minister. 

The story of my negotiations with Mr. Bonar Law 
and Lord Carson has already been told by Lord 
Beaverbrook in his fascinating book on 
Loird “ Politicians and the War.” It is frankly 

account W ° ' * told not from my point of view, but as a 
vindication of Mr. Bonar Law. Making an 
allowance for that honourable personal bias, I am 
prepared on the main facts to accept his narrative. 
As between Mr. Asquith and myself he is clearly 
unbiassed. He has no personal interest in either of us. 

Sir Edward Carson was for pushing Mr. Asquith 
out of the Premiership. He argued that any shifts like 
Premiership a War Committee, whatever its composi- 
issue : views tion, must necessarily fail so long as the 
of Carson and chief responsibility and authority was 
Bonar Law vested in Mr. Asquith. Certain Ministers 
whom he named would be constantly at his ear and 
poisoning him against the new committee, and post- 
poning, modifying, and thwarting its decisions. Mr. 
Bonar Law was emphatically of the opinion that it 
was desirable for the sake of preserving the national 
unity that Mr. Asquith should retain his position of 
Prime Minister. He dreaded anything like a split 
in the Cabinet at such a juncture. He was also 



WAR MEMOIRS 


982 

apprehensive that there might be a division in his 
own Party if Mr. Asquith were driven out of the 
Premiership. Most of the Tory Ministers were 
devoted adherents of Mr. Asquith’s leadership in the 
War. I was also in favour of retaining Mr. Asquith 
as Prime Minister provided he left the new committee 
full and unfettered powers to direct the War. It is 
rather significant that at this stage not one of us 
(except Sir Edward Carson) contemplated Mr. 
Asquith’s retirement and consequently there was 
nothing said at any of our interviews as to his possible 
successor. I wish to confirm Lord Beaverbrook’s 
statement that Lord Northcliffe was never, at any 
stage, brought into our consultations. He had taken 
sides with Sir William Robertson against me on my 
criticism of the military chiefs for the prolongation 
of the Somme fighting and the failure to avert the 
Roumanian collapse. He had threatened to attack 
me in his papers if I continued “ to interfere with the 
soldiers.” When he saw that something was going 
on he made an effort to resume friendly relations. 
But he was not only left out of the negotiations, but 
as far as I know he was not informed as to what was 
actually taking place. 

After a good deal of conferring and debating 
between Mr. Bonar Law, Sir Edward Carson, Lord 
Beaverbrook and myself, I drew up the following 
memorandum for submission to the Prime Minister : — 

“ 1st December, 1916. 

My 1. That the War Committee consist 

memorandum of three members — two of whom must be 
to the Prime the First Lord of the Admiralty and the 
M under Secretary of State for War, who should 
have in their offices deputies capable of attending 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, 1916 983 

to and deciding all departmental business, and a 
third Minister without portfolio. One of the three 
to be Chairman. 

2. That the War Committee shall have full 
powers, subject to the supreme control of the Prime 
Minister, to direct all questions connected with 
the War. 

3. The Prime Minister in his discretion to have 
the power to refer any question to the Cabinet. 

4. Unless the Cabinet on reference by the Prime 
Minister reverses decision of the War Committee, 
that decision to be carried out by the Department 
concerned. 

5. The War Committee to have the power to in- 
vite any Minister, and to summon the expert advisers 
and officers of any Department to its meetings.” 

I showed it to Lord Derby who fully approved of 
its terms. 

I then took it to Mr. Asquith, having first of all 
explained to him fully the reasons that had prompted 
me to come to the conclusions embodied in my 
memorandum. He promised to think it over and let 
me know his views later on in the day. In the evening 
I received from him the following letter : — 

** 10, Downing Street. 

1st December, 1916. 

My dear Lloyd George, 

I have now had time to reflect on our conversa- 
tion this morning, and to study your memorandum. 

Though I do not altogether share your 
j Ir - dark estimate, and forecast of the situation, 
re ply actual and prospective, I am in complete 
agreement that we have reached a critical 
situation in the War, and that our own methods of 



WAR MEMOIRS 


984 

procedure, with the experience which we have gained 
during the last few months, call for reconsideration 
and revision. 

The two main defects of the War Committee, 
which has done excellent work, are (1) that its 
numbers are too large ; (2) that there is delay, 

evasion, and often obstruction, on the part of the 
Departments in giving effect to its decision. I 
might with good reason add (3) that it is often kept 
in ignorance by the Departments of information, 
essential and even vital, of a technical kind, upon 
the problems that come before it, and (4) 
that it is overcharged with duties, many of 
subordinate bodies. 

The result is that I am clearly of opinion that the 
War Committee should be reconstituted, and its 
relations to and authority over the Departments be 
more clearly defined and more effectively asserted. 

I come now to your specific proposals. In my 
opinion, whatever changes are made in the composi- 
tion or functions of the War Committee, the Prime 
Minister must be its Chairman. He cannot be 
relegated to the position of an arbiter in the back- 
ground or a referee to the Cabinet. 

In regard to its composition, I agree that the War 
Secretary and the First Lord of the Admiralty are 
necessary members. I am inclined to add to the 
same category the Minister of Munitions. There 
should be another member, either without portfolio, 
or charged only with comparatively light depart- 
mental duties. One of the members should be 
appointed Vice-Chairman. 

I purposely do not in this letter discuss the 
delicate and difficult question of personnel. 

The committee should, as far as possible, sit de 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, igi6 985 


die in diem , and have full power to see that its 
decisions (subject to appeal to the Cabinet) are 
carried out promptly and effectively by the 
Departments. 

The reconstitution of the War Committee should 
be accompanied by the setting up of a Committee 
of National Organisation to deal with the purely 
domestic side of war problems. It should have 
executive powers within its own domain. 

The Cabinet would in all cases have ultimate 


authority. 


Yours always sincerely. 


H. H. Asquith.” 


The reply was entirely unsatisfactory. The Prime 
Minister’s counter proposal would effect no improve- 
ment and hardly any change in the 
The reply position as it stood. The Prime Minister 
unsatisfactory W as to preside over the Committee and 
any Ministers dissatisfied with any of its 
decisions were entitled to appeal to the Cabinet 
before any steps were taken to carry them out. 
Then what about the Committee of National Organ- 
isation which was to be set up quite independently 
of the War Committee to deal with the purely 
domestic side of War problems ? 

(1) Would food production and distribution be 
relegated to it ? 

(2) What about shipping and ship-building ? 

(3) Would the question of man-power be left 
to it? 

If these questions were taken out of the cognisance 
and authority of the War Committee it would have 
a more limited scope and less power than the existing 



WAR MEMOIRS 


986 

body of that name. I felt convinced that Mr. Asquith 
was resolved not to agree to any change in the War 
direction. I therefore decided to act without further 
loss of time and I wrote to Mr. Bonar Law as 
follows : — 

“ War Office, 

Whitehall, S.W. 

2nd December, 1916. 

My dear Bonar, 

I appeal to I enclose copy of P.M.’s letter. 

L^aw Bonar The life of the country depends on 

resolute action by you now. 

Yours ever, 

D. Lloyd George.” 

I had seen Mr. Bonar Law late on Friday evening 
and it was decided that we should go forward with 
our plan of reorganisation whatever the consequences. 
On Saturday and Sunday Mr. Bonar Law was 
entangled in a series of clumsy manoeuvres in which 
his Conservative colleagues were engaged. They 
had lost confidence in Asquith, but they did not 
want me. They disliked Carson and had no fanatical 
belief in Bonar Law. What were the poor fellows 
to do ? They had no clear idea themselves. The 
story is told in detail by Lord Beaverbrook. Much 
of what he relates I learnt for the first time when I 
read his book. I could make no further progress 
until Mr. Bonar Law knew exactly where he stood 
in reference to the other leaders of his Party. How- 
ever, on Sunday afternoon I was asked by the Prime 
Minister’s secretary — Sir Maurice Bonham Carter — 
to come up from the country to talk things over with 
his Chief, who was returning from Walmer Castle 
specially with that object. At the interview which 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, 1916 987 

ensued Mr. Asquith and I discussed the whole 
situation in the friendliest spirit and ultimately came 
to a complete understanding. The terms 
A talk with of that arrangement are given by Mr. 
Mr. Asquith Asquith in the letter he wrote me the 
following morning. As soon as the agree- 
ment was reached he sent for Mr. Bonar Law to inform 
him of the “ complete agreement ” arrived at. I met 
Mr. Bonar Law on my way out. The Prime Minister 
and I were to meet on Monday to discuss the per- 
sonnel of the new committee. On that question I 
anticipated no insuperable difficulty. The Monday 
meeting never came off and I was never privileged 
to meet Mr. Asquith as Prime Minister again. 

In the Monday morning papers there appeared 
the following announcement : — 

“ The Prime Minister, with a view to the most 
active prosecution of the War, had decided to 
advise His Majesty the King to consent to a 
reconstruction of the Government.” 

Some time in the course of the morning I received 
the following letter from the Prime Minister : — 

“ 10, Downing Street, S.W. 

4th December, 19x6. 

My dear Lloyd George, 

Such productions as the first leading article in 
to-day’s Times , showing the infinite possibilities for 
His further misunderstanding and misrepresentation 
letter: anger of such an arrangement as we considered 
at Times yesterday, made me at least doubtful as 
to feasibility. Unless the impression is 
at once corrected that I am being relegated to the 
position of an irresponsible spectator of the War, 

I cannot go on. 



988 


WAR MEMOIRS 


The suggested arrangement was to the following 
effect : The Prime Minister to have supreme and 
effective control of war policy. 

The agenda of the War Committee will be 
submitted to him ; its Chairman will report to 
him daily ; he can direct it to consider particular 
topics or proposals ; and all its conclusions will be 
subject to his approval or veto. He can, of course, 
at his own discretion attend meetings of the 


Committee. 


Yours sincerely, 


H. H. Asquith.” 


When I read that letter I felt the Prime Minister 
had completely changed his tone. There was none 
of the cordiality and friendliness which had character- 
ised our Sunday conversation: I had not seen The 
Times article of which he complained, and I certainly 
had no responsibility for it. I had not communicated 
any information as to the negotiations which were 
going on with Mr. Asquith or the agreement arrived 
at with him, to the proprietor or editor of that paper, 
either directly or indirectly.* I was frankly too 
pleased with the idea that a break had 
I accept been averted on terms which gave some 
his proposal chance of putting new energy into our 
- war activities to do anything that would 
imperil the completion of the new arrangement. I 
replied : — 

££ War Office, 

Whitehall, S.W. 

My dear Prime Minister, Member 4, 1916. 

I have not seen The Times article. But I hope 
you will not attach undue importance to these 

* Lord Beaverbrook makes this quite clear in his narrative of these 
events. Vide “ Politicians and the War .* 5 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, igi6 989 

effusions. I have had these misrepresentations to 
put up with for months. Northcliffe frankly wants 
a smash. Derby and I do not. Northcliffe would 
like to make this and any other rearrangement 
under your Premiership impossible. Derby and I 
attach great importance to your retaining your 
present position — effectively. I cannot restrain, or, 
I fear, influence Northcliffe. I fully accept in 
letter and in spirit your summary of the suggested 
arrangement — subject, of course, to personnel. 

Ever sincerely, 

D. Lloyd George.” 

During that Monday I pressed for my promised 
appointment with the Prime Minister. I was con- 
stantly put off by his secretaries. At last 
An interview I was promised an interview at six 
refused me o’clock. That interview was never 
accorded. Here is a facsimile of a note 
sent in by my private secretary, late in the afternoon 
to me in my room at the War Office : — 

“ War Office, 

Whitehall, S.W. 

Bonham Carter says that the Prime Minister 
does not think he will trouble you to come over 
to-night. He is going to write.” 

Meanwhile the Prime Minister was engaged in a 
series of interviews with all my colleagues (Liberal 
My exclusion anc * Conservative) who were hostile to 
from meeting the new Committee. He even summoned 
of Liberal a formal meeting of all the Liberal 
Mnush.j Members of the Cabinet to discuss the 
situation. It was to take place at the hour fixed for 
my interview. Mr. Arthur Henderson was also 



990 WAR MEMOIRS 

invited to attend. I received no invitation to attend 
that meeting to explain my position, although I was 
still a member of the Cabinet and had done nothing 
to forfeit my right to be summoned to a conference 
of the Liberal Section. My last act had been to 
agree with the Prime Minister on the very issue which 
was to be discussed at the meeting. 

On Tuesday morning I received the following letter 
from the Prime Minister : — 


“ io. Downing Street, S.W. 

December 4, 1916. 

My dear Lloyd George, 

Thank you for your letter of this morning. 

The King gave me to-day authority to ask and 
accept the resignations of all my col- 
Mr. Asquith leagues, and to form a new Government 
Agreement on suc ^ lines as I should submit to him. 

5 I start, therefore, with a clean slate. 

The first question which I have to consider is 
the constitution of the new War Committee. 

After full consideration of the matter in all its 
aspects, I have come decidedly to the conclusion 
that it is not possible that such a Committee could 
be made workable and effective without the Prime 
Minister as its Chairman. I quite agree that it 
will be necessary for him, in view of the other calls 
upon his time and energy, to delegate from time 
to time the chairmanship to another Minister as 
his representative and locum tenens ; but (if he is 
to retain the authority, which corresponds to his 
responsibility, as Prime Minister) he must continue 
to be, as he always has been, its permanent 
President. I am satisfied, on reflection, that any 
other arrangement (such, for instance, as the one 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, 1916 99I 

which I indicated to you in my letter of to-day) 
would be found in experience impracticable, and 
incompatible with the retention of the Prime 
Minister’s final and supreme control. 

The other question, which you have raised, 
relates to the personnel of the Committee. Here 
again, after deliberate consideration, I find myself 
unable to agree with some of your suggestions. 

I think we both agree that the First Lord of the 
Admiralty must, of necessity, be a member of the 
Committee. 

I cannot (as I told you yesterday) be a party 
to any suggestion that Mr. Balfour should be 
displaced. The technical side of the Board of 
Admiralty has been reconstituted, with Sir John 
Jellicoe as First Sea Lord. I believe Mr. Balfour 
to be, under existing conditions, the necessary head 
of the Board. 

I must add that Sir Edward Carson (for whom, 
personally, and in every other way, I have the 
greatest regard) is not, from the only point of view 
which is significant to me (namely, the most 
effective prosecution of the War), the man best 
qualified among my colleagues, present and past, 
to be a member of the War Committee. 

I have only to say, in conclusion, that I am 
strongly of opinion that the War Committee 
(without any disparagement of the existing Com- 
mittee, which, in my judgment, is a most efficient 
body, and has done, and is doing, invaluable work) 
ought to be reduced in number ; so that it can 
sit more frequently, and overtake more easily the 
daily problems with which it has to deal. But in 
any reconstruction of the Committee, such as I 
have, and have for some time past had, in view, the 



WAR MEMOIRS 


992 

governing consideration, to my mind, is the special 
capacity of the men who are to sit on it for the 
work which it has to do. 

That is a question which I must reserve for 
myself to decide. 

Yours very sincerely, 

H. H. Asquith.” 

The letter was a complete repudiation of the 
agreement he had entered into with me on Sunday 
and confirmed in writing on Monday. 
A breach He had reached his decision to go back 

of faith on his word without giving me an oppor- 

tunity of further discussion with him. 
He saw all the critics. He resolutely refused to see 
me although he had promised to do so. Had I gone 
back on my word I know the nature of the comment 
that would have been passed on me by those who 
worked with frenzy to persuade Mr. Asquith to break 
faith. How it would have fitted into that legend of 
distrust which they so assiduously worked up for 
years, and which seems to be their sole article of 
unwavering faith ! 

I therefore felt bound to send him the following 
reply : — 

“ War Office, 

Whitehall, S.W. 

My dear Prime Minister, December 5, 1916. 

I have received your letter with some surprise. 
On Friday I made proposals which involved not 
merely your retention of the Premiership, 
My letter but the supreme control of the War, whilst 
resigning t be executive functions, subject to that 
supreme control, were left to others. I 
thought you then received these suggestions favour- 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, igi6 993 

ably. In fact, you yourself proposed that I should 
be the chairman of this Executive Committee, 
although, as you know, I never put forward that 
demand. On Saturday you wrote me a letter in 
which you completely went back on that propo- 
sition. You sent for me on Sunday and put before 
me other proposals ; these proposals you embodied 
in a letter to me written on Monday : — 

e The Prime Minister to have supreme and 
effective control of war policy ; 

The Agenda of the War Committee will be 
submitted to him ; its chairman will report to 
him daily ; he can direct it to consider particular 
topics or proposals and all its conclusions will be 
subject to his approval or veto. He can, of 
course, at his own discretion attend meetings of 
the Committee.’ 

These proposals safeguarded your position and 
power as Prime Minister in every particular. I 
immediately wrote you accepting them e in letter 
and in spirit.’ It is true that on Sunday I expressed 
views as to the constitution of the Committee, but 
these were for discussion. To-day you have gone 
back on your own proposals. 

I have striven my utmost to cure the obvious 
defects of the War Committee without overthrowing 
the Government. As you are aware, on sevei'al 
occasions during the last two years I have deemed 
it my duty to express profound dissatisfaction with 
the Government’s method of conducting the War. 
Many a time, with the road to victory open in 
front of us, we have delayed and hesitated whilst 
the enemy were erecting barriers that finally 
checked the approach. There has been delay, 



WAR MEMOIRS 


994 

hesitation, lack of forethought and vision. I have 
endeavoured repeatedly to warn the Government 
of the dangers, both verbally and in written 
memoranda and letters, which I crave your leave 
now to publish if my action is challenged ; but I 
have either failed to secure decisions or I have 
secured them when it was too late to avert the 
evils. The latest illustration is our lamentable 
failure to give timely support to Roumania. 

I have more than once asked to be released from 
my responsibility for a policy with which I was in 
thorough disagreement, but at your urgent personal 
request I remained in the Government. I realise 
that when the country is in peril of a great war. 
Ministers have not the same freedom to resign on 
disagreement. At the same time I have always 
felt — and felt deeply — that I was in a false position 
inasmuch as I could never defend in a whole- 
hearted manner the action of a Government of 
which I was a member. We have thrown away 
opportunity after opportunity, and I am convinced, 
after deep and anxious reflection, that it is my 
duty to leave the Government in order to inform 
the people of the real condition of affairs, and to 
give them an opportunity, before it is too late, to 
save their native land from a disaster which is 
inevitable if the present methods are longer per- 
sisted in. As all delay is fatal in war, I place my 
office without further parley at your disposal. 

It is with great personal regret that I have come 
to this conclusion. In spite of mean and unworthy 
insinuations to the contrary — insinuations which I 
fear are always inevitable in the case of men who 
hold prominent but not primary positions in any 
administration — I have felt a strong personal 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, igi6 995 

attachment to you as my Chief. As you yourself 
said on Sunday, we have acted together for ten 
years and never had a quarrel, although we have 
had many a grave difference on questions of policy. 
You have treated me with great courtesy and 
kindness ; for all that I thank you. Nothing 
would have induced me to part now except an 
overwhelming sense that the course of action which 
has been pursued has put the country — and not 
merely the country, but throughout the world, the 
principles for which you and I have always stood 
throughout our political lives — in the greatest 
peril that has ever overtaken them. 

As I am fully conscious of the importance of 
preserving national unity, I propose to give your 
Government complete support in the vigorous 
prosecution of the War ; but unity without action 
is nothing but futile carnage, and I cannot be 
responsible for that. Vigour and vision are the 
supreme need at this hour. 

Yours sincerely, 

D. Lloyd George/’ 

His reply and the further correspondence that 
ensued will explain the progress of events that 
terminated the life of the Asquith 

Our further Coalition. 
correspondence 

“ 10, Downing Street, S.W. 

j ti j December 5, 1916. 

My dear Lloyd George, v 

I need not tell you that I have read your 
letter of to-day with much regret. 

I do not comment upon it for the moment, 
except to say that I cannot wholly accept your 
account of what passed between us in regard to 

VOL. II DD 



WAR MEMOIRS 


my connection with the War Committee. In 
particular, you have omitted to quote the first 
and most material part of my letter of yesterday. 

Yours very sincerely, 

H. H. Asquith.” 

“ In the meantime, I feel sure that you will see 
the obvious necessity in the public interest of 
not publishing at this moment any part of our 
correspondence.” 

“ War Office, Whitehall, S.W. 

My dear Prime Minister, December 5, 1916. 

I cannot announce my resignation without 
assigning the reason. Your request that I should 
not publish the correspondence that led up to and 
necessitated it places me therefore in an embarrass- 
ing and unfair position. I must give reasons for 
the grave step I have taken. If you forbid 
publication of the correspondence, do you object 
to my stating in another form my version of the 
causes that led to my resigning ? 

Yours sincerely, 

D. Lloyd George.” 

“ As to the first part of your letter, the publication 
of the letters would cover the whole ground.” 

“ 10, Downing Street, S.W. 

My dear Lloyd George, December 5, 1916. 

It may make a difference to you (in reply to 
your last letter) if I tell you at once that I have 
tendered my resignation to the King. 
Resignation In any case, I should deprecate in the 
Asquith public interest the publication in its 
present form at this moment of your letters 
to me of this morning. 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, 1916 997 

Of course, I have neither the power nor the wish 
to prevent your stating in some other form the 
causes which have led you to take the step which 
you have taken. 

Yours very sincerely, 

H. H. Asquith.” 

On Mr. Asquith’s resignation, Mr. Bonar Law 
was summoned by the King and entrusted with the 
Mi. Bonar task of forming an Administration. His 
Law urges first suggestion to the Sovereign was that 
to become * should summon some of the leading 

Premier figures in the recent discussions with Mr. 
Balfour and Mr. Henderson to Buckingham Palace 
to see whether it was not possible to avoid any break 
in the unity of the nation by constituting a National 
Government under the leadership of Mr. Balfour. 
It is now a matter of history how we expressed our 
readiness to serve under Mr. Balfour — all of us 
Mr. Asquith exce pt Mr. Asquith, who asked indig- 
tefuses to join nantly “ What is the proposal ? That I 
a Balfour who have held first place for eight years 
ministry should be asked to take a secondary 
position.” This broke up the conference. Mr. 
Asquith subsequently refused to serve in a Bonar Law 
Administration. Mr. Bonar Law then declined to 
undertake the responsibility of forming a Ministry 
and recommended the King to send for me. This 
course he took in spite of the advice given him to the 
contrary by Mr. Balfour, Sir Edward Carson, and 
myself. I neither sought nor desired the Premiership. 
I knew that in the circumstances my elevation to 
that position would be skilfully misrepresented. I 
also knew that a War Committee in a Bonar Law 
Administration from which the obstructive elements 



WAR MEMOIRS 


had been kept out, had an excellent chance of working 
smoothly and effectively, and I felt confident that Mr. 
Bonar Law would give me a free hand and extend 
to me the support of a loyal chief, which was all 
I desired. However, Mr. Bonar Law 
I under take refused to listen to our combined en- 

Govemment treat i es ’ and I had to undertake the 


treaties. 


had to undertake 


terrible responsibility of Premiership in a 
muddled war, with at least half my own party and 
more than half the Labour Party bitterly hostile, 
and a considerable section of the Tory Party — in- 
cluding most of their leaders — suspicious and distrustful. 

I surveyed the possibilities. I was assured of the 
support of something under one half the Liberal 
Members in the House. Every Con- 
Atutude of servative Minister in the Government, 
leaders ^ 1116 exce pt Mr. Bonar Law, and as I subse- 
quently discovered, Mr. Balfour, was 
hostile to my Premiership. The attitude of Labour 
was doubtful, but not altogether antagonistic. I was 
satisfied that I would receive the active co-operation 
of Mr. Bonar Law and Sir Edward Carson (much 
the most influential leaders in the Conservative Party 
as far as its rank and file was concerned) and Lord 
Milner — who carried great weight with the Tory 
intelligentsia and Die-Hards (not by any means 
identical groups). If I secured the adhesion of 
Mr. Balfour I felt that I could risk the opposition 
of the other Conservative mandarins. I felt he had 
neither the energy, initiative, nor the administrative 
gifts requisite for the position of First Lord of the 
Admiralty at such a critical moment. His elimination 
from the Admiralty was an unwritten demand I had 
submitted to Mr. Asquith. Mr. Balfour had been 
told by Mr. Asquith of the adverse view I had formed 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, 1916 999 

of his administration of the Navy, and of my request 
for his removal. Nevertheless, I have since dis- 
covered that he supported my demand for a change 
in the War direction and refused to join in a re- 
construction of the Ministry under Mr. Asquith. 

As he said in letters written at the time to the Prime 
Minister, after he had been informed of my objection 
to his retaining Office at the Admiralty : 
Mr. Balfour's “We cannot, I think, go on in the old way. 
S mypolicy ^ think (a) that the break-up of the 
J Government by the retirement of Lloyd 
George would be a misfortune ; ib) that the experi- 
ment of giving him a free hand with the day-to-day 
work of the War Committee is worth trying ; and 
(c) that there is no use trying it except on terms which 
would enable him to work under conditions which in 
his own opinion promise the best results.” He ended 
by insisting that his resignation should be accepted 
and “ that a fair trial should be given to the new War 
Council a la George.” 

I knew nothing of these letters at the time. I only 
knew that I tried to get Mr. Balfour out of the 
Admiralty and that as this disagreeable fact would 
in all probability be communicated to him, an 
approach to him under these conditions was not very 
hopeful. I confess that I underrated the passionate 
attachment to his country which burnt under that 
calm, indifferent, and apparently frigid exterior. 

Mr. Balfour was then ill in bed. Mr. Bonar Law 
undertook to sound him. He went to offer him the 
post of Foreign Secretary. He accepted it 
He accepts without any of the hesitations and por- 
office under me tentous declarations of his patriotic duty 
which smaller and less sincere men might 
have indulged in — and later on did. But as Mr. Bonar 



1000 


WAR MEMOIRS 


Law was leaving, Mr. Balfour suddenly turned to 
him and said : “ Would you mind telling me why 
Lloyd George was so anxious to get me out of the 
Admiralty ? ” Mr. Bonar Law answered with his 
usual bluntness : “You had better ask him yourself.” 

Quite recently I discovered that my objections to 
his retaining office at the Admiralty were a source of 
hurtful perplexity to him up to his last days. He 
thought I resented the report he issued to the Press 
of the much debated battle of Jutland. That report 
undoubtedly conveyed the impression even to friendly 
minds that the victory was debatable. My reasons 
for thinking he was not the best selection for the 
Admiralty had no reference to this episode. The 
First Lord during a Great War ought to be a man of 
exhaustless industry and therefore of great physical 
energy and reserve. It was an office that called for 
unceasing attention to detail. It meant long hours, 
early and late. Mr. Balfour was obviously unsuitable 
for such a post. 

As I have mentioned previously, the story of the 
first five days of December, 1916, and of the efforts I 
made to bring about a new system in the direction of 
war — efforts which, quite contrary to my intention, 
culminated in a change of Government and the 
retirement of Mr. Asquith — has already been told 
very graphically and in considerable detail by Lord 
Beaverbrook in the second volume of his “ Politicians 
and the War.” His account presents the story from 
the point of view of himself and of Mr. Bonar Law. 
Naturally, the events were seen by me at the time 
from a somewhat different angle, but there is no 
difference of substance between us as to the main 
features and stages of that crisis. 

There was a tragic bitterness about the situation 



ioo r 


0 THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, 1916 

which developed through those days, and which 
forced a cleavage between me and 
Cleavage with colleagues with most of whom I had for 
Liberal leaders long years been working in the happiest 
and most fruitful collaboration — a 
cleavage later on aggravated and perpetuated by the 
malice of petty-minded men with baneful effects 
on the' future political development of our country. 
But even at the worst it had its brighter aspects. One 
was that it brought Mr. Bonar Law and myself into 
a close partnership, and laid the foundations of a 
mutual understanding and real friendship which is 
one of the happiest of my political memories. 

From the moment I was invited by the King to 
form a Government I was so overwhelmed with 
urgent affairs, which brooked no delay, 
My case never that I found no opportunity for presenting 
stated to party to the public my reasons for the course of 
action which ended in the downfall of 
the Asquith Administration. It was not merely 
the time occupied in the actual formation of the 
Government. That took a few days of inter- 
viewing, negotiating and adjusting. And here I 
would like to pay a tribute to the tact, the 
wisdom and loyalty with which both Mr. Bonar 
Law and I were assisted in this difficult 
. . , and even dangerous task by Sir Edmund 

help mS Talbot (now Lord FitzAlan). He 

smoothed many difficulties and probably 
averted many indiscretions. 

The moment the Government was formed there 
were many pressing matters to attend to which ought 
to have been settled many months ago. The campaign 
for 1917 had already been settled before I became 
Prime Minister. But there were many urgent 



1002 WAR MEMOIRS 

questions which demanded immediate decision and 
prompt action. The production of aeroplanes — the 
food supplies of the country — the protection of our 
ships and the development of shipbuilding — the 
better mobilisation of the man-power of this country 
— the mission to Russia, too long delayed — the 
German peace move — and afterwards 
Preoccupations President Wilson’s peace notes ; these 
Government constituted but a part of the calls upon 
the attention of the War Cabinet. In 
these circumstances Mr. Bonar Law and I could 
not enter into a controversy upon the causes that 
led to the recent crisis. Apart from that con- 
sideration, we came to the conclusion that it was 
not desirable to have discussions upon personal 
matters which might endanger the national unity 
and imperil national co-operation. Neither of us 
therefore issued any statement on the subject. Had 
we done so we knew we could not have left it there, 
as we should have been bound to reply to inevitable 
criticisms and comments from those who were now 
freed from the cares and burden of office and who 
had more time, and, as it turned out, more inclination 
to dwell upon these things. 

As far as Mr. Bonar Law was concerned the 
decision was probably the right one. But there is 
no doubt that my influence in the Liberal 
Campaign Party suffered severely from my neglect to 

representation P ut m Y case before opinions had hardened 
and prejudices had been created. Mis- 
representations were soon broadcast throughout the 
land, and time was given for them to strike root in the 
soil, and when I regained leisure it was too late to 
eradicate them. Most of this work was done privately 
at confidential gatherings of Liberal associations 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, 1916 IOO3 


throughout the country. Missionaries were dis- 
patched from Headquarters at Abingdon Street 
to every district to spread tendencious reports of the 
origin, motives and methods of the crisis. At secret 
conclaves much could be said which the presence of 
a newspaper reporter would have checked. Some 
salient facts were suppressed ; others were distorted, 
and when I resumed my political activities after the 
War was over, I was amazed at the beliefs that were 
current as to what had really happened. When I 
asked Mr. Asquith for permission to publish the 
correspondence, he had, as is shown in the above 
correspondence, refused to accede to my request on 
public grounds. I was rather surprised to find, 
when he came to address Liberal Members a few 


days after his resignation and to explain to them 
why he resigned, that he summarised some of the 
passages from his own letters and actually quoted 


Mr. Asquith's 
one-sided 
statement 


some in full, whilst he omitted altogether 
to communicate to his hearers the state- 
ments I made in reply. His reason for 
doing so was : — 


“ I will not read his letter because it is private ; it 
was written very confidentially .” 


He did not think it necessary in the interest of fair 
play to explain that I had asked him for permission 
to publish my letter, and that he had refused. 
He conveyed the impression to them that the 
Sunday agreement was not an agreement at 
all, but merely a proposal for further discussion. 
He never informed them that he told Mr. Bonar 
Law after our Sunday interview that he and I had 
agreed on terms, and that the only question left for 
further debate was that of personnel ; that he had 



WAR MEMOIRS 


IOO4 

made the same statement that very evening to Mr. 
Montagu and to Lord Reading. He never informed 
the meeting that on Monday I had repeatedly asked 
to see him and that he had declined to give me an 
interview, nor did he inform them of the important 
fact that a meeting of all the Liberal Members of the 
Cabinet had been summoned on Monday night to 
consider the position and that I had not been invited 
to attend the meeting. He withheld from them the 
fact that at a conference at Buckingham Palace 
presided over by the King he had refused to serve in 
a National Ministry under the Premiership of Mr. 
Balfour, although Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Henderson, 
and myself were quite prepared to do so. Nor did 
he tell them that when Mr. Bonar Law was entrusted 
with the task of forming a National Government 
he had refused, after consultation with his Liberal 
colleagues, to join it. It was obvious that, if these 
vital facts had been communicated to those Members 
who had assembled at the Reform Club, they would 
have taken a different view of the transaction. 
Unfortunately, we allowed a very one-sided statement 
to go by default, and the truncated statement, because 
it was unchallenged, was accepted by the majority 
of Liberals in the country as a fair account of what 
had happened. 

I will only give one example of the kind of thing 
which influenced Liberals against me at that time. 
Mr Here is a speech delivered by Mr. 

Rundman’s Runciman to his constituents immediately 
disingenuous after he left office : — 
speech 

“ In reforming the Government the present 

Prime Minister invited his Unionist colleagues to 

rejoin him. He invited the Labour Party to join 



THE CRISIS: DECEMBER, igi6 IOO5 

him, and he gave an invitation to one Libera] 
Minister. I was not that one. I have been asked 
by my constituents already why I did not join the 
new Government. I can only make the simple 
reply that it was impossible to accept an invitation 
which I had not received. 35 * 

Surely there never has been a better example of 
suppressio veri . Had Mr. Runciman told his con- 
stituents that he was one of those who had agreed at 
the meeting of Liberal Ministers on Monday night 
not to take office under anyone except Mr. Asquith, 
and that at the meeting when that decision was 
reached the question of my Premiership was discussed 
as the alternative ; had he informed them that he 
was one of those who advised Mr. Asquith not to 
serve under any other Premier, quite a different 
impression would have been conveyed to the minds 
of his electors. He clearly wished them to believe 
that whereas I was inviting Conservative and Labour 
men to join my Government, I wantonly and 
deliberately ruled out all my former colleagues 
except one. 


# How busy I was may be inferred from the fact that I read the speeches 
of Mr. Asquith and Mr. Runciman for the first time when I came to write 
this story. 



CHAPTER XXXVI 


SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 

I. MR. ASQUITH 

I recollect Lord Morley once saying to me : 
“ Asquith ought to have been a judge. He would have 
made a great one. I remember,” he said, “ a con- 
versation I had recently with Arthur Acland about 
early days when Acland, Asquith and I used to meet 
together often to discuss politics, and I said what a 
pleasant fellow he was. Acland replied, ‘ Yes, but 
did you ever hear him make any suggestion of his 
own ? ’ I had to confess that although he discussed 
every proposition advanced by others 
Temperament with great intelligence and force, he never 
of a judge submitted any ideas of his own for our 
consideration . 5 5 Asquith undoubtedly had 
not only the mind, but the temperament of a judge. 
I hardly ever met him before we entered the same 
Cabinet together. But during the n years we 
were members of the same Governments — Campbell- 
Bannerman’s and his own Administration — I had 
ample opportunities of seeing him. I always had an 
unqualified admiration for his unrivalled gifts of 
lucid and logical statement — his command of choice 
words and his sledge-hammer rhetoric. When I 
came to know him as a colleague, and especially when 
I served under him as my Chief, my admiration 

1006 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 


widened and deepened. His massive and well- 
ordered intellect worked with the precision 
Qreiit and directness of a perfect and powerful 

mtellectiM machine. But he waited until proposi- 
tions were submitted to him. He never 
drove or initiated ; he decided on schemes when they 
were placed before him. He never surveyed the needs 
of the country and devised means for supplying them, 
in peace or war. He dealt with questions not as they 
arose but as they were presented to him. But there 
his judgment was beyond that of any political leader 
I ever met. He started no new plans, but he was not 
afraid of examining any projects if they were placed 
before him clearly, and left on his logical mind an 
impression of having been well considered before- 
hand. He was always essentially the 
Judicial but judge. When he accepted a plan he used 
not constructive his great authority to obtain for it Cabinet 
sanction. And when it came to commend- 
ing the scheme to the acceptance of the House of 
Commons, there was such inevitability in the presenta- 
tion that it left critics wondering why they ever 
doubted. Such a mind was invaluable in the conduct 
of affairs when peace reigned and there were no 
emergencies demanding originality, resource and 
initiative. It was specially useful for a Cabinet where 
there were several able men full of ideas to which 
they were anxious to give administrative or legislative 
effect. But for the deluge, Noah was better adapted 
than Gamaliel would have been. Had there been 
no war, the Asquith Administration would 
A great t 0 the end have stood as high in the 

\ Premier annals of wise, fruitful and beneficent 

rule as any Government that ever existed 
in this country, and its capable chief would have 


A great 

peace-time 

Premier 



ioo8 


WAR MEMOIRS 


been a worthy figure on the pedestal of distinguished 
achievements, which, by his special gifts, he had 
made possible. Such a pedestal he will always 
occupy. The 1906-14 Cabinet was one of the ablest 
councils that ever directed the affairs of any great 
country in times of peace. 

But war demands other attributes. The part which 
political chiefs ought to take in the conduct of a war 
is a very debatable question. The line of 
Part of the demarcation has never been drawn, prob- 
politician in a bjy because there ought not to be any 
rigid line. So much depends on condi- 
tions which are never alike in any two wars and vary 
and fluctuate from time to time in the course of the 
same war. So much also depends on the personalities 
engaged, whether civilian or military. Lincoln 
interfered a good deal with McLellan, but he gave 
Grant a free hand. There never has been a war where 
civilian action and impulse was so essential to success 
as the Great War of 1914-18. 

In these volumes I have indicated directions in 


which civilian aid in the organisation of our military 
strength was found to be indispensable, and some 
where civilian advice taken in time might have averted 
disaster. There are certain indispensable qualities 
Qualities essential to the Chief Minister of the 

needed for Crown in a great war. I do not propose 


war-time 

statesmanship 


to give an exhaustive schedule of these 
essential qualities, but such a Minister 


must have courage, composure, and judgment. All 
this Mr. Asquith possessed in a superlative degree. 
He gave dignified but not rousing and vigorous leader- 
ship to the nation. But a War Minister must also 


have vision, imagination and initiative — he must show 


untiring assiduity, must exercise constant oversight 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 


IOOg 


and supervision of every sphere of war activity, must 
possess driving force to energise this activity, 
must be in continuous consultation with experts, 
official and unofficial, as to the best means of utilising 
the resources of the country in conjunction with Allies 
for the achievement of victory. If to this can be 
added a flair for conducting a great fight, then you 
have an ideal War Minister. Mr. Asquith at his best 
did not answer sufficiently to this description to make 
him a successful Chief Minister in a war which 
demanded all these qualities strained to the utmost. 
But apart from these shortcomings the nerve of 
the Prime Minister at this time was clearly giving 
out, and he gave the impression of a man who 
was overwhelmed, distracted and enfeebled not 
merely by the weight, but by the variety and com- 
plexity of his burdens. Whether he was ever fitted 
for the position of a War Minister in the greatest 
struggle in the history of the world may be open to 
doubt, but that he was quite unfitted at this juncture 
to undertake so supreme a task was not open to any 
question or challenge on the part of anyone who came 
constantly in contact with him at the time. 

Asquith’s will became visibly flabbier, tardier and 
more flaccid under the strain of the War. Then came 


Mr. Asquith’s 
decline of 
vigour 

the blow. 


the personal tragedy which shattered his 
nerve. The death of his brilliant son, 
Raymond, came upon him with stun- 
ning effect, and he visibly reeled under 
It came at a time when he needed all the 


calm poise and firmness of mind which man can 
command. For a crisis had arisen where statesman- 


ship had to intervene, decide and direct. It was a 
misfortune for Britain that the great statesman who 


had the supreme responsibility was less equal to his 



IOIO 


WAR MEMOIRS 


task than he had ever been in the whole course of his 
distinguished career. Mr. Bonar Law, who was well 
disposed to him, was of that opinion and expressed it 
repeatedly in the course of the conversations I held 
with him. 

2. LORD HALDANE 

Haldane was a baffling personality. In private he 
talked incessantly — in public he talked volubly and at 
interminable length on any subject. His speaking 
was a rapid, thin stream of involved wordiness 
tinkling along monotonously. Nevertheless, with all 
his loquaciousness he was a doer of things. He was 
essentially a man of ideas which he carried out, but 
could not explain succinctly. That accounted for his 
wordiness. In spite of that defect, this garrulous 
lawyer was a man of action. There was 
The best War one gathering at which he hardly ever 
Cardwell spoke, and that was the Cabinet. He 
was almost its most silent member. He 
was by common agreement the best War Minister 
since Cardwell. He organised the Expeditionary 
Force which helped to save Paris ; he founded the 
Territorial Army which helped the remnants of our 
regular army to hold the sodden trenches of Flanders 
until the new recruits arrived ; he was responsible 
for the Officers’ Cadet Corps which gave the Kitchener 
Army its intelligent young lieutenants ; it was he who 
had the idea that the War Office would be all the 
better if it had a thinking machine, and so he worked 
out a General Staff. It was no fault of his that Lord 
Kitchener decided to dispense with it. On Education 
he was full of practical suggestions, some of which 
fructified. He had boundless energy. He always 




{Photo: Walter Stoneman) 

Viscount Haldane of Cloan, O.M. 




SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES IOI I 

wanted to be doing something. A combination of 
ideas and energy is tiresome to the complacent. He 
was, therefore, viewed with distrust by that class of 
politician. Once Haldane had an idea he worked 
without cease and resorted to every device and 
expedient to put it through. The sterile 
False repute and the indolent cannot distinguish be- 
for intrigue tween intrigue and action — so Haldane 
passed for an intriguer. Of all the great 
political personalities he was the kindliest I met. 
Although I liked him well, I was never one of his 
special friends. We belonged to different, and at 
one time, very antagonistic sections of the Party. 
He was a “ Liberal Imp ” and I was a “ pro-Boer.” 
But his abandonment by men who were his devoted 
friends — at least by men to whom he was devoted — 
at the instigation of the fussy and noisy patriots that 
always dance around the flag as if they owned it, 
was one of the meanest betrayals in British history. 

The British people are fundamentally just. Had his 
powerful friends stood up for him, pointed out his 
record of service to his country in this war, shown 
how flimsy were the imputations of unpatriotic 
leanings against him, there would have been a 
reaction in his favour, and the Tory leaders could not 
have dared to refuse co-operation because the man who 
organised the Expeditionary Force and the Terri- 
torials remained in the Government. Haldane was a 
brave and unselfish man. He never 

Last memories whined ??. complained about his treat- 
ment. All the same, it shook him. I 
rarely saw him after he left office. But 
I have the memory of seeing a man bent and bowed, 
walking slowly from his house in Queen Anne’s Gate 
towards the Privy Council, where he sat as a Judge. 


vol. n 


EE 



10X2 


WAR MEMOIRS 


3. LORD BALFOUR 

When I first saw Mr. Balfour he was at the height 
of his popularity and unpopularity. It was when I 
entered the House of Commons in 1890. He was 
then easily the most acclaimed statesman on the 
Unionist side of the House, and it follows that he 
was the most detested figure amongst the Home 
Rulers. To the former he was the embodiment 
of strength and to the latter the incarnation of 
brutality. The ruthlessness with which he 
Reputation as ruled Ireland would not have given him 
Irish Secretary his Parliamentary pre-eminence had it 
not been accompanied by consummate 
dexterity in defending his actions on the floor of the 
House. He was confronted by a phalanx of brilliant 
Irish speakers who commanded every weapon of 
effective Parliamentary criticism — eloquence, humour 
and invective — not forgetting imagination. With 
these weapons they had pierced and slashed all his 
predecessors and left them bleeding, exhausted and 
disfigured. Mr. Balfour proved to be more than a 
match for the best and for all of them. He beat them 
at the game at which they were such masters. I am 
told that on the platform he was always a halting and 
ineffective speaker, but from 1 887 up to the end of his 
Premiership in 1905 he was the most skilful of all the 
House of Commons speakers of his day, with the 
exception of the greatest of all Parliamentary gladia- 
tors, Mr. Gladstone. My first encounter with him 
was in the Session of 1902. He piloted 
Battle over through the House of Commons a measure 
Education Bill which provoked the most protracted re- 
sistance ever offered up to that time to 
any Bill, the Education Act of 1902. Day after day 




(Photo: G. C. Beresford) 
The Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M. 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES IOI3 

for the better part of six months Mr. Balfour piloted 
this Bill through the House against a pertinacious 
opposition in which I constituted one of the most 
tireless and tiresome elements. At the end of the 
struggle we were friends. That friendship I retained 
and valued to the end of his days. 

His weakness as a democratic leader came out in the 
Free Trade controversy of 1903-06. His mentality 
was too detached for the zeal that is born 
Vagueness in G f unquestioning faith without facts. He 
TonMvfrsy™ not believe that Tariffs would ruin 
our commerce. Neither had he any fervid 
conviction that they would enhance our prosperity. 
In his heart he thought the protagonists on both sides 
were exaggerating their case. As fully 90 per cent, of 
his party were enthusiastic supporters of Mr. Chamber- 
lain’s protectionist proposals, a statesman who took 
Mr. Balfour’s point of view could offer but indifferent 
leadership in the raging and tearing propaganda 
which alone could bring victory to the lot of his party 
in such a cause. The defeat of 1906 was virtually the 
end of his leadership. He lingered on as a nominal 
but distrusted leader until the two disastrous elections 
of 1910 drove him out, with a savage howl from the 
die-hard jungle ringing at his heels. He then retired 
gracefully and finally to the honoured seclusion of 
Elder Statesmanship. In this capacity he 
An Elder rendered more enduring service to his 
Statesman country than in the more dazzling posi- 
tions he had hitherto held. His achieve- 
ments in this rdle culminated with the Washington 
Conference of 1922, when he represented Britain at 
the first (and so far the only) Disarmament Conference 
that ever succeeded in disarming. On many an 
occasion his vast and varied experience coupled with 



WAR MEMOIRS 


a discerning and mature intellect illumined counsel 
in dark days. During the War his unfailing courage 
steadied faltering spirits in hours of doubt and idread. 
There were times of weariness, many of depression, a 
few of genuine dismay during that terrible world 
conflict. When these occurred I have seen men who 
were reckoned by their public to be inflexible show 
signs of bending — but never Mr. Balfour. He was 
not daunted at the worst moments. It was in council 
that he revealed his strength and his weakness. He 
listened intently to all that was said, but since his 
hearing had been dulled by advancing age he failed 
sometimes to catch the words of speakers around the 
table who either pitched their voices too low or 
articulated indistinctly — a very elementary and pain- 
ful fault with most English speakers. Mr. Balfour 
himself was always clear and resonant. Mr. Bonar 
Law was an egregious example of the first defect. 
You could barely hear him at the Cabinet a yard off. 
Mr. Balfour would rise from his place and stand by 
the speaker, and when the latter finished his observa- 
tions he returned to his seat. When his 
Knack of turn came to express an opinion he 
S sides S 0t 1 carefully and lucidly marshalled the argu- 
ments for taking a given course, and 
anyone not accustomed to his methods would have 
thought he was weighing in heavily on that side. 
Then came the inevitable “ but on the other hand ” 
and the Cabinet listened to an equally logical and 
well-informed presentation of the case against. He 
then paused, threw up his head, looked vaguely at 
the window and in hesitant tones would say, “ But if 
you ask me what course I think we ought to take 
then I must say I feel perplexed.” Often have I heard 
him discuss matters on these lines. He saw both 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES IOI5 

sides too clearly to be able to come readily to a 
conclusion. He gave the impression of a man who 
thought it really did not matter so much which of the 
two courses you took so long as you stuck to it after- 
wards. So therefore it was for us to choose and he 
would abide by the decision. This kind of mentality 
baffled and occasionally fretted Clemenceau, the man 
who never had doubts, not even about 
Balfour and religion. I recollect at the Versailles 
Clemenceau War Council in 1918 an important ques- 
tion being relegated to the Foreign Secre- 
taries for decision. They met and placed Mr. Balfour 
in the Chair. When the time came for them to report 
to the Council M. Clemenceau called upon Mr. 
Balfour. The latter, as was his wont, gave a string of 
reasons on both sides and then stopped. M. Clemen- 
ceau threw up his heavy eyebrows in astonishment, 
opened his eyes wide, and said, “ C’est fini ? ” Mr. 
Balfour replied, “ Oui, monsieur.” Then Clemenceau 
retorted snappishly in English : “ But are you for or 
against ? ” Mr. Balfour had evidently not decided 
and seemed unprepared for an answer. Ultimately 
he reported against. 

I know nothing of his habit of mind in the days 
of his prime. At the time of his famous Irish 
Secretaryship he must have been capable 
Capacity for of prompt and relentless decision. He 
decision then displayed all the highest qualities of 
a man of action, not only in his repressive 
but in his constructive measures. On Land Settle- 
ment, Cottage Holdings, Harbours and Rural 
Development he was a man who did bold things in 
Ireland, and some of the poorest areas bear witness 
to this day of his beneficent thought and action. 

I was an opponent of certain parts of his great 



ioi6 


WAR MEMOIRS 


Education Act of 1902. There can be no doubt as 
to the determination with which he drove through 
a measure which revolutionised popular education 
in England and Wales. Even in the later days, when 
he had not supreme responsibility for the direction 
of affairs, and when he therefore took things easily, 
he could now and again rise to the heights of great 
decisions. His conduct of the Washington Naval 
Conference in 1921-22 affords indubitable proof of 
his capacity to decide when he was confronted with 
a dilemma which he also had the authority to solve. 
But at committees and Cabinets, where he was not 
called upon to act, the picture I have given of him 
fairly represents his methods of contributing to 
discussion. It would be a mistake to infer from this 
that he was worthless in council. You might as well 
say that the summing-up of an able judge has no 
value because it is impartial and gives no direction 
to the jury as to the verdict they should bring in. He 
often placed before us considerations on both sides 
which all the rest of us might have overlooked. His 
summing-up was looked forward to by all his colleagues 
as a means of understanding the real points at issue 
and the strength of the arguments for and against any 
given decision. His was a trained mind of the finest 
quality, of the ripest experience, of the greatest 
penetration, piercing and dissecting problems and 
laying them bare before his colleagues for their 
examination and judgment. 

I can quite understand why the attribute which 
made him helpful in council completely 
Fearless but disqualified him for Party leadership. Yet 
Admiralty * or these doubts and hesitancies he 
was a brave man — and a fearless one. 
In comparatively small things he shrank from 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES IOI7 

conclusions and thus gave a false impression of 
irresolution, but on fundamental issues he never 
flinched or meandered. He was through and through 
a patriot and never lost confidence in the invincibility 
of his country. He lacked the physical energy and 
fertility of resource, and untiring industry for the 
administration of the Admiralty during the Great 
War, but even the woeful tale of increasing sinkings of 
our ships by German submarines and the apparent 
impotence of the admirals to stop the disastrous 
process did not daunt him. His one comment after 
hearing the admirals read out the list of sinkings 
for the previous day was : “ It is very tiresome. 

These Germans are intolerable.” He had no notion 
how the German attack on our shipping could be 
circumvented. He only assumed that sooner or 
later it would be done. Meanwhile, the losses were 
“ tiresome.” Clearly he was not the man to stimulate 
and organise the activity of the Navy in a crisis. 

But he was an ideal man for the Foreign 
A good Foreign Office and to assist the Cabinet on big 
Secretary issues. His contributions in the War and 
afterwards in the making of Peace were of 
the highest order. In personal charm he was easily 
first among all the statesmen with whom I came in 
contact. As to his intellectual gifts I doubt whether 
I ever met so illuminating an intelligence inside the 
Council Chamber. 

4. LORD CARSON 

Driving with Lord Robert Cecil from Paris to Sir 
Douglas Haig’s headquarters, amongst an infinite 
variety of topics out of which we made conversation, we 
came to the great advocates of the day. Lord Robert 



WAR MEMOIRS 


1018 

had no hesitation in expressing the opinion that Sir 
Edward Carson was in his judgment the greatest. 

I asked him if he had heard Sir Charles 
A great Russell. He replied that he had but did 

advocate not think him equal to Carson. I never 

heard Sir Edward Carson in the courts, but 
for nigh unto a generation I saw and witnessed his 
methods, and felt his personality in the House of 
Commons. I could well understand his power over 
a jury. He had the supreme gift of getting to the 
point that mattered in the formation of opinion and 
of presenting and of pressing it with the words, voice 
and emphasis that moved those who heard him in 
the direction he wished their sentiments to travel. 
I could also appreciate the terrible force of his 
cross-examination — the penetration which enabled 
him to see the real weakness of his opponent’s case, 
the weakness of the story told by the witness and the 
weakness of the witness himself, the grim and relentless 
skill to pursue until the prey is at his mercy, and the 
dramatic force which prostrates or destroys. 

I saw something of these gifts in his war con- 
tribution. As soon as he joined the Asquith Coalition 
in 1915 he penetrated all the greatest 
Critical weaknesses of the War administration and 
a Mr U Asquith was aware °f the fatal defects of the two 
personalities upon whom the potency of 
direction must depend — the Prime Minister and Lord 
Kitchener. There was the Prime Minister’s lack of 
initiative and drive, his inability to apprehend the 
importance of time in a crisis, Lord Kitchener’s ab- 
sorption in comparatively unimportant details, his 
failure to grasp such of the problems of the War as 
were not visible to his eye, the waning of the physical 
and nervous powers that once gave him energy, and 



(Photo: Press Portrait Bureau) 

Lord Carson of Duncairn. 





SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES IOig 

his concealment of his limitations under a cloak of 
professional secrecy. Cabinets, like Boards of Direc- 
tors, are mostly composed of those who wish to believe 
that all is going well with a concern as long as they 
are responsible for the direction of its affairs. Carson’s 
questions cut through complacency and irritated his 
colleagues of both parties. He exasperated the 
Prime Minister, whose almost morbid shrinking 
from unpleasantness was placed in constant jeopardy 
by the flourish of his deadly scalpel at every meeting 
of the Cabinet. Having got rid of the fearfulness of 
close association with Sir Edward Carson, Mr. Asquith 
was reluctant to renew the torment of his presence at 
the same Council. This had something to do with 
his opposition to the proposals for an independent 
War Committee put forward by Mr. Bonar Law and 
myself in December, 1916. The name of Sir Edward 
Carson had been mentioned. From that moment 
the idea was doomed to immovable dislike. 

Carson was very strongly opposed to the Dardanelles 
expedition before he entered the Cabinet, and he 
never changed his opinion as to the 
Opposed to unwisdom of having undertaken that 
venture * “ disastrous expedition. But once he was 
inside the Government and found how 
deeply we were committed to the undertaking, he 
saw the importance of carrying it right through with 
all the forces at the disposal of the Allies. He saw 
clearly that failure would have a very calamitous 
effect upon our prestige in the East ; that it would 
encourage the Turks to renewed activity against our 
forces on the Egyptian Fronts and in Mesopotamia ; 
that it strengthened the hold of the pro-German forces 
in Bulgaria and discouraged Roumania. He also 
realised that now we had lost Serbia and the 



1020 


WAR MEMOIRS 


Bulgarians had occupied the Balkans, our only chance 
of cutting off the communications between Turkey 
and the Central Powers was to open up the 
Dardanelles and give our fleet access through the 
Marmora up to the Bosphorus. He therefore felt 
that the best thing to be done was to proceed with 
the campaign with the forces adequate to the 
accomplishment of our task. Herein he also displayed 
that instinct for realities which was his conspicuous 
mental quality. 

As an exposer of shams, humbug and pretension 
Sir Edward Carson had no rival. But he had neither 
the natural gift nor the experience to make a good 
administrator. Even as a member of the Cabinet 
he had the fatal defect ingrained by centuries of 
habit in all men of his race — he was 
“ Agin the naturally opposed to every Government. 
Government ” Whether in or out of office he was always 
“ agin the Government ” for the time 
being. Sir Henry Wilson suffered from the same 
unmanageable contrariness. 

The Irish have become through centuries of misrule 
a race of “ Aginners.” It will take a long experience 
of successful self-government to eradicate this germ 
from their nature. Sir Edward was in this, as in 
other respects, a typical “ Aginner.” He resigned 
from two successive Governments during the War, 
both of them Governments which at the date of his 
resignation were receiving the full support of his 
party. He could not help it. The call of the blood 
was irresistible. 

Still, no one outside the Government could have 
given criticism such effective voice as he did. Men 
of less authority, courage and oratorical power would 
have been brushed aside by Ministers. A whisper as 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 1021 

to the obligations of patriotism would have silenced 
them or deprived them of a hearing. Not so with Sir 
Edward Carson. I doubt whether Mr. 
Value of his Bonar Law would have taken the final 
criticism step of threatened disruption had it not 
been for his fear of the lash of Carson’s 
terrible tongue. Lord Beaverbrook knew this well, 
and made full use of it to persuade his friend to rise 
to the greatest opportunity of his career. 

5 . MR. BONAR LAW 

Mr. Baldwin in a recent speech on Bonar Law said 
that his co-operation with me during the War was 
the most perfect partnership in political history. 
This statement must have seemed extravagant to 
those not intimately acquainted with the facts. I 
recollect that when I was on the threshold 
Friendships of my official career I was warned by a 

in politics very shrewd observer, who had been 

privileged through a long political life 
to be on intimate terms with some of the greatest 
figures in the political world, to bear in mind that 
“ there was no friendship at the top.” At the time 
this observation struck me as being the cynicism of a 
disillusioned man. I wish that after long years of 
experience I could write with conviction to-day that 
his comment was unjustifiable. There is rivalry and 
jealousy in every profession and business. In politics 
these are stimulated and accentuated by a constant 
public discussion of the respective and contrasted 
merits and defects of the prominent figures on the 
political stage. These discussions are promoted some- 
times by genuine interest in a theme which attracts 
the public — that of the qualities, good and bad, of 



1022 


WAR MEMOIRS 


its well-known personalities — sometimes by sincere 
admiration for one above all others of the conspicuous 
political leaders of the day. The virtues and faculties 
of political leaders constitute an essential item in the 
assets of the party to which they belong. It is 
therefore inevitable that exaggeration of the qualities 
with which their own chieftains are endowed and 
depreciation of those which characterise the chiefs of 
rival classes constituted a method of political warfare. 

Too often criticisms and panegyrics alike are in- 
stigated by sheer mischief and malice — one of the great 
ones has had the misfortune to attract the 
Work of dislike of a critic, and an effective method 
mischief makers G f retaliation by malignity is not only to 
detract from the abilities and achievements 
of the object of its hatred, but to laud the personage 
who is marked for his rival in public favour. All 
these causes tend to breed intrigues for exalting one 
or other of the public men at the expense of the others. 
Friendship cannot thrive in such an atmosphere. For 
nearly five years Mr. Bonar Law’s friendship for me 
and mine for him not only survived but grew from 
year to year. When ill-health drove him from 
collaboration and companionship, I felt the separation 
more deeply than any I have endured during my 
political life. At that time the task of Government 
was so absorbing that those who were not working 
together soon lost sight of each other and thus drifted 
apart. Immediately on his retirement he left England 
for a fairly prolonged stay in the South of France. 
Neither he nor I ever revelled in the delights of 
correspondence. When he returned from his health 
sojourn on the Continent he had fallen back on other 
associations which were distinctly hostile to our 
friendship. Had I enjoyed more leisure and he less, 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 


this remarkable political partnership would only have 
ended with his tragic death, and many a chapter in 
the history of Britain, maybe of the world, would 
have been different from those which have now been 
written in indelible ink by the pen of Destiny. 

There never were two men who constituted such 
a complete contrast in temperamental and mental 
equipment. We had nothing in common, 
Similarities in except a lowly origin — his father was a 

experience Presbyterian Minister in a humble manse, 
mine was a school teacher in times when 
the pay of that profession was equal to half the 
wages of a town scavenger to-day. We had the 
same stern puritan upbringing. These early in- 
fluences differentiated us completely from the other 
leading figures with whom he and I had to work — 
Mr. Balfour, Lord Curzon, Lord Lansdowne, Lord 
Derby, Lord Milner, Mr. Churchill, and Sir Edward 
Grey. They had been reared in another planet, and 
he and I consciously, or rather unconsciously, must 
have been brought nearer together by that permeating 
and permanent influence. Although Mr. Asquith 
had come from similar stock and the like environment, 
he strove consistently to quit his early past and to 
surround himself with the appearance of 
Bonar Law being a native of another world, to which 
and. Asquith he really never belonged by origin, dis- 
position or pursuits, and to conform as 
best he could to these new surroundings. Bonar 
Law would have disdained such contortions to 
adjust himself to social conditions he detested and 
despised. 

I recollect Lord Morley telling me that a prominent 
Jew once said to him that he had striven all his life 
“ to get out of the Ghetto, but had utterly failed to 



WAR MEMOIRS 


1024 

do so ! ” Mr. Asquith strained painfully and patently 
to get out of “ Bethel ” ; but although he managed 
to leave it far behind, he was a stranger and a 
sojourner in any other home. He was ill at ease 
with either of Disraeli’s Two Nations. He shunned 
direct contact with the people, neither had he the 
traditions nor the lure of aristocracy. He never 
appreciated Bonar Law’s mental quality, nor the 
fine but strong fibre of his character. During a 
gloomy period of the War, I suggested to Mr. Asquith 
that the leading members of the Cabinet should meet 
informally one evening to review the situation and 
consider what could be done to effect an improvement 
in the Allied position. He acceded to my suggestion. 
We discussed names. Every peer and aristocrat in 
the Cabinet was included by him in the list. I 
suggested the name of Bonar Law, as he 
“ A Glasgow was leader of the Tory Party. He snappily 
baillie ” answered, “ No : he has the intellect of 
a Glasgow baillie ! ” So Bonar Law, the 
trusted leader of the largest party in the British 
Parliament, was ruled out of an inter-party con- 
sultation on events which might decide the fate of 
the British Empire and the future course of mankind. 
He was neither a patrician nor an academician. 
Neither was he troublesome as some of us threatened 
to be. So why bring in this common person to such 
a select gathering ? 

This represented Mr. Asquith’s general attitude of 
mind towards Mr. Bonar Law. He did not under- 
value his abilities ; he placed no value at all upon 
them. His origin, his training, his equipment, his 
prejudices, his very appearance and outfit excited 
every antipathy in Mr. Asquith’s mind. When Bonar 
Law joined the Asquith Coalition Cabinet he did little 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 


to dispel impressions of his intellectual inferiority. The 
problems with which he was confronted were new to 
him, and at first his comments expressed 
Speaking crudely the opinions of a sensible and 
^languages able business man on propositions with 
which he was imperfectly acquainted. 
It took his virile and logical mind some time to 
acquire an adequate grip of the terrible complexities 
of the World War. He did not possess a ready 
command of the conventional and shallow pomposities 
with which much less able men cloaked the nakedness 
of their knowledge and the poverty of their faculties. 
Mr. Asquith, although himself possessing a powerful 
and illuminating intelligence and a ready command 
of adequate phraseology, was always too apt to be 
impressed by traditional ideas garbed in an appro- 
priate jargon. Bonar Law spoke simply and naturally 
in the language of a Scottish business man. Thus 
Mr. Asquith and Mr. Bonar Law never came any- 
where near friendly understanding. 

There was another reason why Mr. Asquith had a 
fundamental dislike for Mr. Bonar Law. The latter 
was by temperament a pessimist. He 
Bonar Law's generally took a gloomy view of the 
pessimism world and its ways. Asquith was a 
temperamental optimist. “ Wait and 
see ! ” was the natural expression of a mood confident 
in the immediate future of all the things in which 
he was concerned. Things might be obscure and 
unpleasant for the time being, but wait a little longer 
and you will see for yourself that all is well even now. 
He could not bear prophets of gloom anywhere 
around him. 

Bonar rather liked to dwell on the difficulties of a 
project or a prospect. Pessimist as he was by nature 



1026 


WAR MEMOIRS 


he however never despaired of our ultimate success in 
the War, provided the Allies made effective use of their 
resources. When, during the Asquith Coalition, a 
scare was being attempted by the puckish Keynes 
as to the approximate collapse of our financial credit, 
Bonar Law’s practical sagacity came to the rescue of 
the timorous, and steadied counsel. 

Bonar’s first impulse, when a project or a prospect 
was placed before him, was to dwell on its difficulties 
and dangers. I found that idiosyncracy 
His value as US eful and even exhilarating. When I 
'critic rUCtWe had any plans I took them around to 
him to test them on his doubting and 
unenthusiastic nature. I started work very early, 
and immediately after breakfast I habitually walked 
along the corridor from No. io to No. n Downing 
Street for a smoke and a talk with Bonar. We surveyed 
the morning news and the business of the day. If 
I had been thinking out any schemes I invariably 
unfolded them to him before placing them before the 
War Cabinet. His reaction was always to array all 
the difficulties and obstacles (generally political) in 
the way of operating these ideas successfully. He had 
an incomparable gift of practical criticism. When 
he had finished marshalling his objections I knew 
there was nothing more to be said against my plans. 
Sometimes I felt the force of his adverse criticisms 
was so great as to be insuperable, and I abandoned 
the project altogether ; at other times I found it 
necessary to alter or modify the idea in order to 
meet some obstacle which I had not foreseen but 
which he had pointed out. But if I came to the 
conclusion that his objections were not sufficient to 
deter the Government from initiating and carrying 
out the particular scheme, I went away strengthened 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 1027 

in my resolve as the result of our conversation. On 
those occasions I said to him, cc Well, Bonar, if there 
is nothing more to be said against this scheme, then 
I mean to put it before the War Cabinet to-day . 55 
He usually acquiesced, as he knew that I never failed 
to listen to his views and to give full weight to them. 

Once I had secured his consent I had no more loyal 
supporter for my plans. 

He possessed real courage. It was not the blind 
dash of the reckless or the buoyant courage of the 
sanguine. He anticipated trouble every- 
where and every time, and mostly 
is courage exaggerated it. Nevertheless, he faced 
it without faltering if it came. He was 
both fearless and apprehensive. His great phrase 
in beginning and often in ending an interview was 
“ There is lots of trouble ahead ! 55 Any manoeuver- 
ing in the House of Commons, especially amongst 
the supporters of the Government, worried him. 
On these occasions, when he was more miserable than 
usual, I used to say to him, c< Let us swop jobs. You 
can take mine and I will run yours . 55 That generally 
put an end to the discussion. He shrank from 
accepting the supreme responsibility for 
Reluctance to decisions which might be right but which 
make decisions would, if they turned out to be wrong, 
entail irreparable injury to the interests 
of the country. During those years, almost every 
day decisions of that fatefulness had to be taken. A 
reluctance to decide when there was a serious 
difference of opinion was a curious defecL in so 
resolute and truly brave a man. But there it 
undoubtedly was. It was probably due to an 
inherent diffidence which caused him to distrust 
his own judgment, coupled with a strong blend of 

Jk*'F 


VOL. II 



1028 WAR MEMOIRS 

conscientiousness and caution which made him 
fearful of doing the wrong thing. 

His attachment to Lord Beaverbrook was largely 
although by no means entirely attributable to this 
natural defect. He found a support and 
Friendship a strength in this resolute friend, whose 
Beaverbrook Practical shrewdness gave him confidence 
and whose personal devotion he knew to 
be beyond challenge and question. He thus came 
to rely upon him in every emergency of his public 
and private life. His remarkable success in so short 
a time, and in a party so constituted as the Tory Party, 
was undoubtedly due to Beaverbrook’s promp ting 
and management. Mr. Bonar Law was not without 
ambition, but this motive was not strong enough to 
overcome the hesitancies of so anxious a temperament. 
Mr. Asquith once said of him that he was “ meekly 
ambitious.” Lord Beaverbrook’s forceful insistence 
and unfailing backing cured all that. He shoved 
him almost brutally to the front. He firmly believed 
him to be the best man to succeed Mr. Balfour when 
the latter was driven out of the leadership of the 
Conservative Party. I was certainly of the same 
opinion at the time and I had no reason to change 
my view afterwards. 

Tragedy deepened the pessimism of Bonar Law’s 
later years. Once it took root it certainly spread 
rapidly over his spirit, like a parasite, until 
Tragic it hid the strength of the granite under- 

bereavements neath. It must have come from the shocks 
of a succession of great sorrows which 
shattered the joy of life and even the desire for life. He 
lost a wife to whom he was devoted, and the War 
bereft him of two fine boys whom he adored. A placid 
life of unchecked success is the best climate in which to 




From a painting by J. B. Anderson 

{Photo: Henry Dixon & Sons Ltd) 

The Rt. Hon. Andrew Bonar Law, 

Conservative Party Leader, 1911-1921. 





SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES 1029 

grow the plant of a hopeful disposition. Such had 
been Mr. Bonar Law’s life until fate intervened to 
shrivel it all up. The brightness of his outlook had 
seemed unclouded by doubts. I remember meeting 
him in the corridor of the House of Commons soon 
after I had introduced my Budget of 1909. He said 
to me, “ Well, you are too late to save your Party. 
If you had a General Election now not more than 
50 Liberal Members would be returned for England, 
and once a Government begins to go down it never 
recovers.” He was then almost childishly optimistic 
as to the chances of any ventures in which he was 
engaged, so different from the stricken Bonar of 
1916, with the nerve of hope paralysed by the 
lightnings from a dark cloud. Then he said to me as 
soon as we were installed in joint authority, <c In six 
months Asquith will be the most popular man in 
England.” His face was set towards the sunset, and 
he never swung round to the end. 

He never seemed to me to have any appreciation 
of the brighter side of life. When he and I paid a 
visit to Paris to confer with the French 
No taste Government, I took him in the evening 
for music to see that joyous comic opera “ La Fille 
de Madame Angot.” I have never seen 
a man so painfully bored at a performance. He 
continually left the play for the foyer, where I found 
him smoking his pipe. When I asked him whether 
he did not enjoy the performance he said : “ It would 
be quite tolerable if it were not for the singing.” 

I remember before the War, while we were both 
staying at Cannes, driving with him on a sunny day 
along the road to the golf course at Cagnes. The 
sky was cloudless and the sea was blue as only the 
Mediterranean can be, while on our left was the white- 



WAR MEMOIRS 


1030 

topped amphitheatre of the Maritime Alps. I turned 
to Bonar and asked him if he did not think it beautiful. 
“ I don’t care much for scenery,” he replied in his 
rather toneless voice. The night before I had been 
to a performance of one of Mozart’s operas — I think 
it was “ II Seraglio.” It was the first time I had 
heard it and I was struck with its exquisite beauty. 
I mentioned the fact to Bonar Law, but his reaction 
to my enthusiasm was only to say “ I don’t care much 
for music.” As we approached the golf course we 
saw some extremely pretty women also on the way 
to play golf. I called Bonar Law’s attention to 
them. “ Women don’t attract me,” was his laconic 
answer. “ Will you tell me,” I said, exasperated at 
all this disdain for the attractions of life, “ what it is 
that you do care for ? Scenery — 

“ I like music — women — none of them has any 

bridge ” meaning for you. What is it that you do 
like ? ” “I like bridge,” was the reply. 

Was he industrious ? He was a steady and quiet 
worker. He took pains to master his case before he 
expressed an opinion either in council or in public. 
He read the official papers sent to him carefully, but 
I never found him searching out extraneous sources 
of information in order to obtain wider and less 
official conclusions on the subject under investigation. 
He was hard-working when the occasion demanded 
application, but he was not energetic. 
A slave to He loved his armchair and he was a slave 

his pipe to his pipe. He hated a long lunch or 

dinner, not only because he was an 
unappreciative eater, but because it delayed the 
moment when he could pull out his beloved pipe. 
I believe it helped to undermine his health. 

His method of preparing his speeches was to sit 



SOME PERSONAL SKETCHES IO3I 

in his armchair with his head well back in the chair 
and his long legs well up on the mantel- 
Love of piece. He loved quiet and ease. His 
tranquillity slogan as Prime Minister was characteristic 
— “ Tranquillity.” He hated not only 

quarrels and tumults but all that demanded a 
strenuous life or called for a display of energy and 
vigour. He was not exactly lethargic, and certainly 
not torpid, but he had no constant urge towards 
action of any kind. He was in private kindly, good 
tempered, genial — nay, essentially gentle. His 

bluntness of speech was all manner and was not 
attributable in the least to the temper or cold cruelty 
of disposition that takes pleasure in inflicting hurt. 
This impression may serve to explain what follows 
when I come later on to tell the story of how our 
partnership began and how it continued unbroken 
under an unparalleled strain. It is not too much to 
claim that the effect it had on the events of that 
critical period is part of the story of the Empire and 
of the contribution the Empire made to a struggle 
which must for generations affect the course of 
civilisation. 



CHAPTER XXXVII 


1914-1916: A RETROSPECT 

After accepting the Premiership from the King’s 
hands, I proceeded immediately to form my adminis- 
tration. How this Government was formed, the 
conditions under which it was called upon to under- 
take its task, the problems which confronted it, and 
the way in which it proceeded to deal with them, must 
be the subject of my next book. 

In the foregoing pages I have brought my re- 
collections of the Great War down to the end of 
1916. In a succeeding volume I hope to take up the 
tale, and describe the outstanding events with which 
I was personally connected during the two concluding 
years of the world conflict. But the month of Decem- 
ber, 1916, forms a fitting point at which to pause in my 
narrative, for it marked, for reasons which 
The end I shall proceed to summarise, the end of 
of an epoch an epoch in the progress of the War. So 
far as my own affairs were concerned, it 
was the point at which, after serving the State in a 
variety of secondary offices, I was called upon to 
shoulder the supreme responsibility for administration. 
I carried that burden throughout the remaining years 
of the War, and beyond. 

In the story of the War, the end of 1916 found the 
fortunes of the Allies at their lowest ebb, the outlook 
dark from the open bankruptcy of both their strategy 

1032 



i9i4 -I 9 I ^ : a retrospect 1033 

and their diplomacy. Three of the Allied Powers — 
Belgium, Roumania, Serbia — had been completely 
knocked out ; the fourth — and one of the greatest — 
had also been practically put out of action. On the 
other hand the Central Power Federation was intact. 
The prospect facing us at the moment when I became 
Prime Minister was enough to daunt any man or 
group of men. By a succession of incredible blunders 
we had frittered away one advantage after another 
possessed by the Allies — in material resources and 
potential man-power and strategic oppor- 
Allied tunity — until on balance we were on the 

S thfoum away wron g side in our comparative strength 
and strategic position as compared with 
those enjoyed by the enemy. Even our command 
of the sea was in jeopardy — and daily increasing 
jeopardy. 

The Allies had originally possessed an immense 
superiority in man-power, and in all the available 
i;nd accessible means of equipment. We squandered 
the former and neglected the latter. 
Waste of At the outbreak of the War the men of 
man-power military age in Russia, France, the British 
Empire, Serbia, Roumania, Italy and 
Belgium outnumbered by many millions those which 
the Central Powers could call upon. How had we 
used them ? Owing to bad strategy and failure to 
utilise our vast resources for equipment we threw 
away our overwhelming surplus of fighting men. 
For this reason we had left Serbia to be overrun and 
wiped out. Two-thirds of her resources in fighting 
men had been one way or another put out of action, 
and the remainder, cut off from their own territory, 
were unable to draw on their potential reserves and 
reinforcements. Roumania had, owing to the same 



WAR MEMOIRS 


IO34 

cause, just shared the same fate, and her army of 
900,000 (with reserves) had been written off the 
account. Russia had entered the War with almost 
illimitable man-power. It was estimated by General 
Gourko that up to the end of 1916 she had called 
14,000,000 men to the colours. In October, 1916, 
Sir William Robertson estimated that she still had 
nearly 5,000,000 under arms, and could draw on 
reserves of a further 6,500,000. The remainder of 
her troops had disappeared in the shambles of war or 
were interned in German and Austrian camps 
supplying the enemy deficiency in labour. But by the 
end of 1916, Russia through lack of the equipment 
which France and Britain could easily have furnished, 
had almost ceased to be an asset on the balance sheet. 
Her revolution was only a few weeks ahead, and with 
it her military value to the Allied cause would 
disappear altogether. Already her troops, dispirited 
and disaffected, had ceased to be capable of any 
serious offensive. On the other hand Austria, which 
could have been disintegrated and destroyed in 1916, 
was so protected and strengthened that she survived 
as a formidable opponent in resistance and attack 
for two more years, while Turkey, which could have 
been finished off in 1915, had beaten us off in Mesopo- 
tamia and Palestine and, her armies re-equipped by 
Germany, was more redoubtable as a military power 
than she was in 1914. 

Two failures on key questions had completely 
transformed the military position to our disadvantage. 
The first was the failure to realise that this was a war 
of machinery, and the consequent neglect immedi- 
ately to mobilise our national resources to improve the 
Allied equipment. The second was our failure until 
too late to appreciate the fact that the weakest point 



igi4-I9 l6: A RETROSPECT IO 35 

of the Central Powers was in the Eastern and South- 
Eastern Fronts. Thus a war of attrition was sub- 
stituted for a war of intelligence. 

Both Lord Kitchener and Sir William Robertson 
reposed their trust in attrition as a means to victory. 
How had it worked ? I have shown how already we 
had dissipated our huge surplus of fighting men in the 
east. What about the west ? 

The armies of France and Britain were still power- 
ful, but the course of the War up to this date had 
witnessed a profligate wasting of some of our finest 
young manhood. In the offensives of the Western 
Front we had lost three men for every two of the 
Germans we put out of action. Over 300,000 British 
troops were being immobilised for lack of enterprise 
or equipment or both by the Turks in Egypt and 
Mesopotamia, and for the same reason, nearly 400,000 
Allied soldiers were for all practical purposes interned 
by the Bulgarians in the malarial plains around 
Salonika. Altogether the Allied forces which could 
still be counted as reliable for energetic campaigning 
in the future were facing a foe that was now, for 
effective purposes, just as powerful numerically, and 
was operating on interior lines with all the best 
strategic positions in his hands — the Balkans, the 
Dardanelles, and the high ground in France and 
Belgium. The silly and bloody game of attrition 
had already been won by Germany. 

With a criminal prodigality we had squandered the 
superior man-power that had been at our disposal. 
We had also weakened our resources and strengthened 
those of the enemy by our failure to gain alliances 
that would have been ours for the asking, and by 
manoeuvring at least one potential ally to the other 
side. Our diplomacy was a timid and nervous thing. 



WAR MEMOIRS 


IO36 

frightened of America, too shy to tackle Greece, and 
leaving the Turks and Bulgarians entirely to the 
allurements of the Germans. Sir William Robertson 
complained of the undoubted fact that the soldiers 
had received no help from diplomacy. Bold diplo- 
macy, backed by proper strategy and effective military 
action, would have enabled us in the early months of 
the War to call into being a great Balkan Confedera- 
tion on the side of the Allies, which would have added 
1,500,000 to our fighting forces. With Bulgaria, 
Greece and Roumania, in addition to Serbia, on our 
side, Turkey would have been cut off and forced to 
make peace in 1915, or at latest early in 1916. And 
with these forces pressing up on Austria from the south- 
east, and with Italy operating from the south, we 
should have crushed Austria-Hungary, and compelled 
Germany to make peace, particularly if by energetic 
and early mobilisation of our manufacturing resources 
we had supplied Russia with the munitions to make 
her immense armies effective. 

Peace with victory might have been ours in 1916 if 
we had pursued such a course. It would have meant 
contenting ourselves with holding the Germans on the 
Western Front, rather than trying to smash through 
there ; it would have meant sending the men, who 
later on were slain in vain attacks in France and 
Flanders, to strengthen the forces of a Balkan Con- 
federation for an assault upon the weakest part of 
the Central Powers’ defence ; it would have meant 
sending part of the munitions blazed 
What the away in France to assist Russia and the 

feared™ Balkan States. Recently I was told in 

conversation by a distinguished German 
who held an exalted position in the government 
of his country during the War : “ That is what we 



i9i4 -I 9 I 6: a retrospect 1037 

were always afraid you would do ! ” Nothing pleased 
them better than to see us mass our forces for attack 
in the impregnable west while we allowed ourselves 
to be out-manoeuvred at every turn in the vulnerable 
east. We hammered at the breastplate of Achilles and 
neglected his heel. And we called it sometimes 
“ striking at the vital parts ” and sometimes 
“ attrition.” 

Such was the net result of the diplomacy and the 
war direction and strategy pursued by the Allies 
during nearly two and a half years of a war in which 
they had started with overwhelming advantages, and 
through which they had been supported by unexam- 
pled efforts and sacrifices on the part of their peoples. 

Such was the situation I was called upon to face 
when I took up office as Prime Minister. A few days 
Sir William after I became Prime Minister I invited 
view^ofthe Sir William Robertson to give me a note 
situation at on any points connected with the War 
end. of igi6 which particularly required my attention, 
and I also invited his candid opinion as to our pros- 
pects of winning it. The document with which he 
furnished me was not an encouraging one. There 
were such phrases as : “ The attitude of the British 
Empire up to the present time has been lamentable.” 
“ We are contributing far more to the War than any 
Power, and we exercise less general control than any.” 

Later on he says : “ At the present time we are 
practically committing suicide.” Then he goes on : 
“ We must considerably enlarge our ideas as to the 
magnitude of the War. We do not yet nearly realise 
the stupendous task confronting us.” 

He prophesied “ an increasing strain in every 
direction. The strain will become greater and greater 
as time goes on, and we are undoubtedly in for a bad 



WAR MEMOIRS 


IO38 

time for the next few months. ...” Further on he 
says, “ We can only expect just to win through and no 
more, and yet things in England are going on much 
the same to-day as two years ago. It is upon us more 
than any other Power that the final result depends, 
and I cannot hold out any hope of winning until we have been 
strained to the utmost. If the nation will not stand that, 
then the chances are we shall not win. . . 

Later on he says, “ . . . some Members of the late 
Government had no proper perspective of the War. 
They lived from telegram to telegram. . . .” 

He ends, after saying that Germany is also feeling 
the strain of the War, “ We must learn to set our 
teeth and refuse to be discouraged ; and, generally, 
put into our task more spirit, soul, courage, and determination 
to win no matter at what cost, and in any event to go down, if 
we must, with our colours flying. But there will be no question 
of going down if we are brave and resolute, and stick to a 
definite plan once it is made .”